SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ – Scotch Plains-Fanwood boys swimming this week begins a season like no other previously. Not only is the season delayed because of COVID, but the weather has also disrupted the team’s practice schedule.

“To be perfectly honest, the snow has been more of an issue right now than COVID. I think we have lost more practices days due to weather this year than any other year,” said Raiders varsity coach Jess Hulnik. “Like other teams we have lost a little pool time, and we are restricted to four swimmers per lane.”

The competitions will be virtual this year, but Hulnik confident that opponents will be honest in reporting their scores.

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“Even with our fiercest rivals, I feel there has always been a kinship and integrity amongst swim coaches -- that coupled with the fact we are all very confident in our team's abilities,” Hulnik told TAPintoSPF. “I have never worried about cheating. None of us feel we need to.”

How do you keep swimmers motivated when the competitors are not in the same pool?

“Right now, it is easy; everyone is just glad to be doing something and looking forward to some sort of competition,” the coach said.

“I imagine it may be tough when every meet kind of feels the same. I am going to try to get them to focus on improving their performances,” added Hulnik, who remains hopeful that they will be able to conduct one in-person meet this season.

Is it hard to keep motivated with all the alterations and cancellations? 

“Everything is harder this year, school sports, going to the store, etc.  Acceptance of this has allowed me to stay motivated,” Hulnik said. “Finding new and different ways to do things, although challenging at times, is ultimately making me a better teacher and hopefully a better coach.”

So what kind of season do you expect from the boys this year? 

“With everything going on, I am not sure what to expect. The training season is shorter, so unless they have been swimming before the season started, new goals may have to be set,” she said. “While I am hoping for some personal bests out of all the swimmers, comparing their times this season with times from last year may not only be unrealistic in some cases, but also unfair.”

“While any of our swimmers can have a big season, I am very excited to see what our sophomores do after a season under their belt,” Hulnik said. “Many freshmen struggle a bit with the number of meets during a high school season, and it usually takes them a year to get comfortable. Sophomore year can be big for many of them.”

Senior Michael DePaola is a sprint freestyler who finished in the top 8 at the Union County Tournament (UCT) in the 50 free last season. Owen Ferrone swims the butterfly, IM, and distance freestyle events. He had top 12 finishes at the UCT in 100 fly and 500 free. Matt London, one of the top sprint freestylers in the state, is the returning Union County champion in the 50 free and was the runner-up in the 100 free. Sean Merkle is a versatile swimmer who competes in the backstroke, freestyle, and IM. He was a top 8 finish in 200 free and the 4th place finisher in the 100 back at the UCT. Jason Mongiovi  swims several events. He placed 4th in the 100 butterfly and in the top 10 in the 100 breaststroke at the UCT, and is also very strong IM and distance freestyle.

Junior Corey He is a distance freestyler who finished in the top 10 in the 200 freestyle and 4th place in the 500 free at the UCT. He is also a strong performer in relays. Gavin Morrobel had a top 10 finish in the backstroke at the UCT. Aidan Trenery is a versatile swimmer, who was runner-up in the 200 IM and 100 backstroke at the UCT.

Sophomore Bradley Frank is a versatile swimmer in sprint freestyle, IM, and backstroke, in which he had top 16 finishes as a freshman in the UCT. Owen Higinbotham is a distance freestyler who finished in 5th place in the 500 freestyle at the UCT last year.  Jay Slack swims the butterfly and IM and ended the season strong last year; Thomas Yick was a top 16 finisher in the 100 breast at the UCT.

Among the freshmen, versatile Kyle Karyczak may swim freestyle, backstroke and IM, while Robert Lambert could swim in freestyle events and backstroke.

Tentative Schedule (source: Union County Conference. Meets are virtual.)

  • Tuesday, Feb 23, at 7:30 p.m. -- New Providence at Fanwood Scotch Plains YMCA
  • Thursday, Feb 25, at 3 p.m. -- Away vs. Governor Livingston (at Fanwood Scotch Plains YMCA)
  • Tuesday, Mar 2, 2021 at 3 p.m. -- Cranford at Fanwood Scotch Plains YMCA
  • Thursday, Mar 4, at 3 p.m. -- Away vs. Union (at Fanwood Scotch Plains YMCA)
  • Friday, Mar 5, at 4:30 p.m. -- Away vs. Saint Peter's Prep at Saint Peter's Prep High School
  • Tuesday, Mar 9, at 3 p.m. -- Elizabeth at Fanwood Scotch Plains YMCA
  • Tuesday, Mar 16, at 3 p.m. -- Oratory Prep at Fanwood Scotch Plains YMCA
  • Thursday, Mar 18, at 3 p.m. -- Away vs. Plainfield (at Fanwood Scotch Plains YMCA)

Scotch Plains-Fanwood Roster (2021)

  • Seniors: Michael DePaola, Owen Ferrone, Matt London, Sean Merkle, Jason Mongiovi, David Riedell.
  • Juniors: Luka Culjak, Corey He, Gavin Morrobel, Conor Reilly, Aidan Trenery.
  • Sophomores: Bradley Frank, Owen Higinbotham, Michael Levin, Peter Reilly, Nick Schmidt, Jay Slack, Sean Stuart, Thomas Yick.
  • Freshmen: Kyle Karyczak, Robert  Lambert, Saverio Paradiso, Ari Rabinovich, Gokul Ramanan.

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