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St. Anthony’s swimmers finally get the best of Fordham Prep

St. Anthony's Sean Cannon surfaces during the butterfly

St. Anthony's Sean Cannon surfaces during the butterfly stroke portion of the 200 yard medley relay event in the CHSAA varsity boys swimming City Championships at the Nassau Aquatic Center Feb 9, 2014. Photo Credit: James Escher

Whether it’s Yankees-Red Sox, Patriots-Jets or Bills-Super Bowl, nearly every sport has that one rivalry in which one team always seems to get the better of the other.

In CHSAA boys swimming, it’s Fordham Prep-St. Anthony’s with St. Anthony’s often finding itself on the wrong side. But not Monday.

The Friars defeated five-time defending state champion Fordham, 94-92, after placing first and third in the 400-yard relay — the final race of the meet — to finish their dual meet season 8-0 and win the regular season title.

“All my high school career,” said senior Sean Cannon, “it only seemed like something I could dream of because they were so good.”

But Cannon and the Friars knew if any team could knock off Fordham, it was this year’s squad. Fordham’s last loss in any meet came to St. Anthony’s in 2010, but Cannon called this year the strongest team he’s been a part of in his four varsity seasons.

“It seemed like a really good striking time for us,” Cannon said. “Time for us to take over.”

The two teams combined to post 24 state qualifying times — led by 14 times for the Friars. Andrew Stange and CJ Arena broke schools records in the 200 and 500 freestyle, respectively. Before the race, coach Dan McBride did his part to get the team in a winning mindset.

“A lot of talking was that you guys can be the team to take the state champions down,” McBride said. “Sooner or later, they have to fall.”

And how did it feel to be that team to knock off the undefeated champions? It was certainly shocking for St. Anthony’s, but not for the obvious reason.

The Friars thought a first- and third-place finish in the final race would give them a tie with Fordham. When the final score was revealed and St. Anthony’s realized it earned enough points to win, the swimmers were ecstatic. Said Cannon, “We were really surprised and really excited and freaking out.”

Senior Tyler Meyers anchored the 400 relay that finished first, and when he saw the ‘B’ team place third, he turned and congratulated his teammates for the tie. The victory made it even sweeter.

“At first I was confused because I just didn’t know,” Meyers said. “But then it hit us and we all got so excited. Especially how it happened surprisingly like that.”

The meet scoring featured four lead changes and two ties and was never separated by more than four points. McBride — who has coached St. Anthony’s for 26 years — called it “one of the greatest meets I’ve ever seen.”

And even after defeating Fordham, Meyers said 75 percent of the team was at the following 6 a.m. practice.

“Our goals from the beginning were to win states and go undefeated,” Cannon said, “and so far we’ve been perfect and we just want to keep that rolling.”

“Coach told us it kind of puts the target on our back now,” Meyers said. “Now we’re the team to beat.”

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