It’s OK to smile now, Christian Sztolcman.
“I like to joke around, and there’s the right time and place for it,” the Chaminade swimmer said. “But I learned. These guys told me, ‘This is not the time. This is the time to be serious.’ Last meet, all those practices, all those hard sets, it all leads up to this.”
Sztolcman, a junior from Queens, and the rest of the 200-yard freestyle relay team — seniors Joseph DeLyra, Duncan Kaja and Jonathan Virga — produced Chaminade’s lone event victory at Sunday’s CHSAA boys championship at the Nassau Aquatics Center at Eisenhower Park. Thanks to their win, along with top-five finishes in individual races from Nikloas Daly, Nathan DeGuzman, Eamonn McNicholas and Kyle Kreuscher, Chaminade left the pool with its first team championship since 2006.
“I’ve wanted to win this meet specifically every year,” said Virga, of Sayville. “We never really had the chance to do it. It’s always been close, but it’s always been just out of reach for us. But this year we had what it takes, and we did it.”
“It feels awesome,” DeLyra, of Brightwaters, added. “We’ve been waiting four years to do this, being behind St. Anthony’s and Fordham. We knew we had a good shot, but we knew it was going to be really hard.”
Chaminade edged runner-up St. Anthony’s, 825.5 to 816. The Flyers, who lost to St. Anthony’s and Fordham Prep during the season, embraced their underdog role in the championship. “We weren’t the favorite team here,” Virga said, “but we got it done.”
Andrew Stange, committed to Georgetown, led St. Anthony’s with 200 free (1:39.20), 100 fly (50.17) victories and as a member of the winning 200 medley relay team. Stange said the loss could provide extra motivation for the defending state champions at the state finals March 3-4 at the Nassau Aquatics Center.
“I think the whole team is really more focused now that we know what we need to do and what we need to fix,” Stange said. “And I think states is going to be a great meet for everyone.”
Chaminade coach Angelo Pellicone said with a smile that he reminded his team “every day for the last 11 years” the last time the Flyers won, and credited his swimmers for embracing a team over individual swimming style.
But is now the time to joke around?
An emphatic and in unison “Yeah’’ with laughter came from the 200 free relay team. Until Sztolcman followed with, “Now we got the state championship.”