Unlike those playing basketball this season for Long Beach High School, the boys’ swim team wasn’t hindered by damage inflicted by Superstorm Sandy since the pool sits on the second floor. However, that doesn’t mean the Marines haven’t dealt with any adversity.
Longtime head coach Woody Davis lost two-thirds of his tri-level home in Island Park, and whether or not he’ll return there remains up in the air. Several team members also remain displayed, though everyone has found a home at practice and meets.
“We were dealt a tough hand,” assistant coach John Skudin said. “Everyone wants a sense of normalcy, and we’re all making the best of it. Swimming is an outlet for the kids, and they’re doing well and having fun.
“I think we’re where we want to be at this point,” he added. “We’ve made up for some lost time.”
Long Beach won its first six meets, including an impressive 102-84 victory over Bellmore-Merrick last Friday despite the absence of some key contributors. Sophomore David Mejia led the way, winning the 100 freestyle and breaststroke, and swimming a leg in a pair of first-place relays. He teamed with senior Mark Stegman, freshman Michael McCarthy and senior Adam Salvadori in the 200 medley relay, and with Stegman, McCarthy and sophomore Corey Ochs in the 400 freestyle relay. Stegman won the 50 free, and McCarthy nipped Bellmore-Merrick’s Matt Panzarino in an exciting 100 butterfly. “It was a great win for a lot of reasons,” Skudin said. “Some of the guys really stepped up.”
The most exciting win so far, Skudin said, came on Jan. 4 when the Marines pulled out a 52-50 decision over Farmingdale on the final event. It was the 400 free relay, and Long Beach took first and third. The winning foursome was anchored by senior Nick Stoski, a standout who holds the school record in the 100 breaststroke and is headed to the state meet. “Nick’s never really out of season,” Skudin explained. “He works really hard year-round and is very talented.”
Sophomore Max Willard, who’s also bound for the state meet in the 500 freestyle, led off the winning 400 free relay. McCarthy and Mejia followed. Taking third in the relay were Stegman, Ochs, freshman Michael Bulik and eighth-grader Matt Cannon. “Anytime a meet comes down to the wire and you win, it’s exciting.”
After placing sixth in Nassau last winter, Skudin is looking for the Marines to improve a couple of notches. The county championships are set for Feb. 6-9 at the Aquatic Center. “I’d be really happy with fourth,” he said. “The top three teams — Garden City, Jericho and Great Neck South — are going to be tough.”