Kaplan’s twin sister and fellow Shark, Brooke, said she was surprised that Bellmore-Merrick pulled away with an early lead. “It was supposed to come down to the last race,” she said. “We did not expect to win by that margin.”
The district team took first place in all but one event. Kerry Giovanniello won the 200-yard freestyle in a school-record time of 1:54.52, and the 100-yard freestyle in 54.21. Paige Kaplan and Arana took first and second place in the 200-yard individual medley, in 2:10.81 and 2:11.18, respectively.
Kaplan also won the 100-yard butterfly in 58.83, breaking her previous record of 59.14. Arana then won the 500-yard freestyle in 5:06.78.
Kaefer said that other standout performances included Toback’s wins in the 50-yard freestyle (24.72) and the 100-yard backstroke (1:00.08). Laura Vanella won the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:12.16.
Toback, Giovanniello, Kaplan and Arana qualified for the state championships with their individual times as well, Kaefer noted. “If you look at the meet, 90 percent of the swims we had were best times,” he said. “That may happen again in the championships if they’re all rested.”
Kranis said that the younger swimmers have also contributed to the team’s success. One newcomer, Liz Walsh, finished second in the 100-yard freestyle (55.56) and 100-yard backstroke (1:04.08) against Garden City. Allison Cotter, a seventh-grader at Grand Avenue Middle School who also swam in the meet, said that the team has been welcoming, and she hopes to be a part of it for years.
Solidarity is something Greco and her coach said set this year’s group apart. “The girls from different schools really came together,” Kaefer said. “There’s no, ‘I’m from Kennedy,’ or ‘I’m from Mepham.’ It’s, ‘I’m a Shark.’”
The Lady Sharks agreed that strong support from the largest crowd Kaefer said he has seen at a dual meet was also important. Spectator June Anne Zeltmann said she was impressed by Bellmore-Merrick’s performance.
“What promised to be a great meet went above and beyond expectations,” she said. “They came to the pool with a mission and, with a loud and supportive crowd behind them, accomplished it with overwhelming authority.”