Montclair girls swimming: A deep, veteran squad eyes repeats of tourney triumphs
The Montclair High School girls swimming team will be looking to make it back-to-back Essex County team titles when it hits the water on Jan. 16 at New Jersey Institute of Technology.
The Mounties ran away with the championship last season, with 318 points to second-place Newark Academy’s 218.
This season in a dual meet, Montclair took care of the Minutemen, 108-62, in Livingston on Jan. 4. The team was 5-0 in dual meets as of Monday, Jan. 9.
While Newark Academy came in second last season at the county meet, Mount St. Dominic and Caldwell will probably be the stiffest competition for Montclair this year. The Mounties have already defeated Mount St. Dominic, 109-61, on Dec. 20. They do not face Caldwell until Jan. 27, but the Chiefs were undefeated at the end of last week in dual meets.
The optimism for this season comes because the Mounties only graduated two seniors from the county-winning team, which also won a state sectional championship.
Head coach Ed Koenigsfest knows what they must do to repeat as county champs as well as state champs.
"The goal for the girls team is to swim hard, swim fast and have fun," Koenigsfest said. "Everything else will come if those three things are done at every meet."
The Mounties have 17 girls returning to a team that went 9-1 in dual meets last season, with the lone loss coming to powerhouse Westfield, 104-66, in the Group A semifinals.
"The strength for the girls team is their depth on the roster," the coach said. "The girls need to continue what they have been doing since last season, swimming fast."
Koenigsfest and Montclair had several All Super Essex Conference swimmers returning for 2022-23. The four members of the 200-medley relay team are back, senior Ela Habjan, sophomore Reagan Gilligan, junior Lily Miklaszewski and junior Carly Frank, who also made the SEC first team in the 200 individual medley. Miklaszewski was the best in the county in the 50 freestyle last season and was named to the SEC first team.
In addition to the medley relay group, the Mounties bring back the 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relay teams that also won All SEC first-team honors. The lone common denominator between the two relay teams in the county meet last season was now-senior Caitlyn Foung.
Along with Foung on the All SEC 200 relay first team were sophomores Avery Dollard and the Gilligan sisters, Keira and Reagan. Coming back with Foung on the 400-relay team are Frank, Miklaszewski and Habjan.
Foung will also try to bring back the county title in 100 freestyle, where she was All SEC first team last season.
The biggest hole to fill this season was the slot held by Foung's sister, graduated senior Lily Foung, who was the best 100 breaststroke swimmer in the Super Essex Conference last season. Against Newark Academy on Jan. 4, Frank filled that gap, taking the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:12.34, almost four seconds better than the Minutemen’s Aakriti Caprihan, who finished second.
Habjan is again expected to dominate the 100 backstroke, where she was the best in 2021-22. She grabbed first in the event against Newark Academy with a time of 1:01.56, more than three seconds ahead of the Minutemen’s Claire Wong.
Looking to move up a step this season at the Essex County Tournament is sophomore Reagan Gilligan, who collected All SEC second team honors in 2021-22 in the 500 freestyle. Gilligan won the event in the meet against Newark Academy with a time of 5:51.61.
Along with Habjan and Caitlin Foung, the other seniors on the roster are Sarah Miller and Noemi Morrison.
The Mounties have several freshmen who have a promising future, including Leila Brown, Izzy Mastromarino, Oona McNamara, Sophie Merrifield and Sefina Morrison.
Montclair girls swimming schedule
(Home meets at Montclair State University)
Jan. 10 at Livingston, 3:30 p.m.
Jan. 16 Essex County Tournament, NJIT, 9 a.m.
Jan. 19 at Montclair Kimberley, Montclair State University
Jan. 25 at Millburn, 2:45 p.m.
Jan. 27 Caldwell, 5:45 p.m.
Feb. 6 NJSIAA state tournament, TBA