WAYNE, NJ - Before she stepped up on the starting block to swim the 100 breaststroke, Jackie Crater waved frantically to her mother in the stands to make sure she was watching.
The Chatham senior was swimming an event she rarely swims for the Lady Cougar team and she had to promise coach Frank DiGiacomo she wouldn't get injured swimming it. Mom got to see Crater chop three seconds off her best time and place second in the event during the NJSIAA Public B state semifinals on Wednesday at Passaic County Technical Institute.
It turned out to be a fun, pressure-free day of swimming for Chatham, which went 1-2-3 in the first four events on the way to earning its seventh consecutive trip to the state final. DiGiacomo got everybody who wanted to swim into the pool during the 124-46 win over Northern Highlands, setting up a rematch with Ocean City for the Public B State Championship, 9:30 a.m. Sunday at The College of New Jersey.
Ocean City topped Manasquan, 92-78, in its semifinal, which took place in the same pool.
A year ago, Ocean City edged Chatham in the final event, the 400 freestyle relay, to end the Lady Cougars' state championship streak at five in a row, 86-84, and snapping Chatham's 103-meet winning streak.
"The team we're going up against on Sunday is a very, very good team," Chatham coach Frank DiGiacomo said. "At the end of last year, we lost a winner-take-all match and we lost. We wanted to come back and swim against them again and we got our wish. You better believe we're going to be ready for them on Sunday"
The Chatham swimmers came into the semifinal smiling and relaxed. Not because they felt it was going to be an easy meet, but because of the pressure-packed matchup they won over Scotch Plains to win the sectional crown last week.
"We're just happy we get a chance to swim two more times," Chatham senior Kate Purschke said.
In the opening race of the meet, Chatham's medley relay team of Jackie Crater (backstroke), Alicia Iizuka (breast), Emily Gorham (butterfly) and Nicole Tingley (free) won easily, and Lady Cougar teams also took second and third.
Chatham also swept the the 200 freestyle with Gorham, Abbie Bigham and Kristina Sullivan taking first, second and third, respectively. It was the same 1-2-3 finish in the 200 IM, led by Tingley, Haley Harkins and Alicia Iizuka winning in that order.
After Olivia Polemeni, Margaret Harrigan and Caroline Paulson took the top three spots in the 50 freestyle, Chatham held a 51-11 lead.
"I'm really excited," Crater said of reaching the final. "Hopefully, we can step up and win it like we know we can. We're all very confident in what we can do. We're all really excited to still be swimming."
Chatham's winning medley relay team of Jackie Crater, Alicia Iizuka, Emily Gorham and Nicole Tingley talk about getting back to the state final