EWING, NJ - The faces of the Chatham girls swim team members were deadly serious in the minutes before the NJSIAA Public B state final. A sign of how the pressure was on became evident when veteran Nicole Tingley grabbed a trash can near the pool with both hands and leaned over.
"It was definitely a little nerve-racking because last year we came in confident and we lost," Chatham senior Emily Gorham said. "We do our best under pressure. I think coming off a big win against Scotch Plains (sectional final) really motivated us and showed us that we can do this when we all come together and swim like this."
Tingley was upright and ready to go when the meet started, swimming the anchor leg on the winning 200 medley relay team (see video) that touched first in 1:47.85.
As the meet progressed, Chatham overwhelmed Ocean City with its depth in the stroke events and the Lady Cougars went on to avenge its loss from last year's state final, pulling out 95-75 victory Sunday at The College of New Jersey. It marked the sixth state championship for Chatham in the last seven years.
"Doing my research, I knew we had to get a lot of points in the stroke events, the backstroke, breaststroke, the IM," Chatham coach Frank DiGiacomo said. "I knew that their freestylers (Amanda Nunan and Ryann Styer) are the two best freestylers in the state. You can't argue with that. But we stole some points there with Jackie Crater taking second in the 500 and Emily Gorham breaking up their 1-2 in the 100 freestyle.
'He put Styer and Nunan in the 100 freestyle to try and steal first and second and Emily decided she was going to break up that party and take second. The turning point was that 100 free, where we broke it up. Sweeping back and going 1-2-4 in breaststroke. I still can't believe we won. It's unreal."
After it was over, DiGiacomo declared he had the best job in the world and thanked the Lady Cougars
In the individual medley, Tingley placed second, and Gorham and freshman Olivia Polemeni took second and third, respectively, in the 50 free for Chatham, keeping Ocean City from pulling away. Gorham also was second in the 100 free.
"We knew coming into the meet that they're definitely a strong freestyle team, so our goal today was to break up their freestyle and then take over when it came to the stroke events," Gorham said. "I think that's exactly what we did today."
Coach DiGiacomo gave this pep talk in the middle of the meet and the Lady Cougars responded
In the 100 buttlerfly, Chatham freshman Hailey Harkins led a 1-2-3 finish by the Lady Cougars with a time of 1:00.29, followed by Tingley at 1:00.35 and freshman Olivia Polemeni in 1:00.92.
Chatham also excelled with a 1-2-3 senior sweep in the 100 backstroke, led by Jackie Crater touching first in 58.88. Caroline Paulson was second in 1:02.63 and Stephanie Crater was third in 1:03.50.
"I told my girls on the way here, no sixth places, steal every point," DiGiacomo said.
Chatham put away the state championship with a 1-2-4 finish in the 100 breaststroke behind seniors Alicia Iizuka (1:05.35), Emily McGovern (1:06.61) and Karen Iizuka (1:09.7). It was the same 1-2 finish by Alicia Iizuka and McGovern in 2014 that clinched the state championship when they were freshmen.
"When we were on the bus on the way here, I was telling the girls that sometimes we take all this for granted, especially the freshmen," Gorham said. "When you get to the pool today, take it all in because we've been so lucky over the last seven years to have Chatham represent the school at the state final and that does not happen with every team. I told the girls today to come here and take it in."