CLARK, NJ- The Arthur L. Johnson High School varsity swim team began their 2014-2015 season determined to succeed, and it turned out to be a season no one would ever forget.
The team went undefeated, posting an 8-0 record, and setting some event records along the way.
Kelly Cahill, a teacher in Valley Road Elementary School, is the head coach of the swim team. Her husband, Bob Cahill, is a history teacher at ALJ and the team’s assistant coach. He shared his thoughts on what it was like to coach such a successful team this season.
“It’s been a great experience,” he said. “Kelly and I have coached the team for over ten years now. At times we thought about giving it up, but it’s always the kids we come back to.”
This year’s team included a total of 15 seniors: Mackenzie Banta, Louis Cacchione, Michael Fuschetto, Emily Green, Mazen Ibrahim, Jordyn Jansuz, Adriana Kidon, David Luis, Jake Manuelian, Magda Mickiewicz, Conrad Ozarek, Drew Russo, Kelly Sweeney, A.J. Tedesco, and Justin Veltre. Manuelian was the team captain.
Banta, Fuschetto, Janusz, Kidon, Manuelian, Ozarek and Veltre, who swam for the Crusaders for four years, were each awarded four-year gold varsity letters at Monday night’s Winter Sports Awards.
“They’re such great competitors, they’re great kids, they’re great student-athletes, it’s hard for us to give it up,” Bob Cahill added. “We enjoy it, we look forward to it. Our own kids are five and two [years old], and they love to come and watch the team. It’s become such a big part of our lives.”
Natalie Perla, Anabela Casimiro, Cristina Casimiro, Annalisa Parisi and Alessia Vorrius were the team managers. Perla also earned a four-year letter.
The team faced tough competition from several of the schools on their schedule. They were tested by Linden, Union Catholic, Dayton, Woodbridge, and Iselin Kennedy; fierce competitors and the Crusaders beat them all.
“We have a great rivalry with Union Catholic. They’re a great program, we respect them a lot, and they seem to be our equal,” Cahill explained. “Whenever we compete against them, our kids really, really get into it. They really love that meet. JFK Mustangs in Iselin is another one. They’re a strong program, a lot of talent and a lot of depth.”
“We’ve told the kids, and we’ve recognized it, that you don’t remember the meets that you win by 40, 50, or 60 points. You remember the meets that you win by ten points, 20 points; those are the ones,” Cahill said.
The swimmers set some records along the way. Veltre broke the record in the 55-free style event, while Ibrahaim set a record in the 100-free style event. Seniors Veltre, Manuelian, Mazem Ibrahaim, and freshmen Mahmoud Ibrahaim teamed up in the men’s 200-free relay to set yet another.
The team hopes to repeat their success next winter. Then, the current juniors will get their chance to push the team to the top as seniors.
“They’ll look back on it, they’ll still talk to us about it, ‘Oh, the first time we beat Union Catholic,’ so it comes back to us, those kinds of rivalries and the kids giving it their all,” Cahill said.