For the second straight year, Joe Cucinotti, coach of the Cherry Hill East boys' swimming team, could only shake his head in admiration of his opponent, Bridgewater-Raritan, on Sunday at the NJSIAA Public A championship meet.
The Cougars were again overwhelmed by Bridgewater-Raritan, dropping a 122-48 decision to the North Jersey powerhouse at the College of New Jersey Aquatic Center. Last year, East fell to the Panthers, 114-56, and was hoping for a more positive result.
"This certainly is not the score we expected," Cucinotti said. "We thought it would be a closer meet than last year. I know we're better than this. We're a better team than we were last year, but so were they. Bridgewater has amazing depth at every stroke."
Bridgewater-Raritan (13-1) dominated the meet from the outset, rolling to a 43-19 lead at the break, and clinched victory with a 1-3 finish in the 200 freestyle relay to push the score to 86-38.
The lone bright spot for Cherry Hill East was Joe Petrone. After getting touched out in the 200 freestyle by one one-hundredth of a second, he returned to win the 500 freestyle in 4 minutes, 50.03 seconds.
"It wasn't my best time in the 500, but I got a win for the team," Petrone said. "The 200 [freestyle] was a bad race for me. I thought I was going to beat the kid [Brian Barr] in the last 25 yards, but he touched me out. That really got me motivated for the 500."
Cucinotti praised Petrone.
"Joe gives you everything he has and more," Cucinotti said. "He got more upset than anybody after getting touched out in the 200. He is such an asset to our team, not only in the water, but in his personality and attitude."
East (16-5), the Central Jersey sectional champion, closed out its season with high hopes for next year.
"We've reached the finals two years in a row," said Cucinotti, in the second year as head coach. "I'm proud of our kids and the way they swam today. They gave it their best effort. We have a lot of underclassmen, so I'm confident we'll be back here next year."
Bridgewater Raritan 122, Cherry Hill East 48