by Andrew Garda

The Montclair High School boys swim team opened its season with a monumental statement win on Tuesday, Dec. 3, at Montclair State University’s Panzer Pool. 

For the first time ever, the Mounties defeated Seton Hall Prep in a dual meet, 90-80. Last season, the boys’ only regular-season dual-meet loss came at the hands of the Pirates,  beating the Pirates by a score of 90-80. Seton Hall, as it has done every year since 1997, went on to win the Essex County championship by a big margin over the second-place Mounties.

Montclair won despite taking first place in only two of the meet’s 11 events: Mizell McEachin topped the field in the 50-meter freestyle, finishing in 22.72 seconds, while the 200 free relay team of Spyros Salatas, Marcos Gutierrez, McEachin and Alex Petroff beat the Pirates’ team in 1:31.80.

But the Mounties are a deep team, as evidenced by their second- and third-place finishers that allowed them to gain enough points to pull ahead of the perennial powerhouse Pirates.

Individually, MHS got big performances from Jarrett Driever and Tommy White, who both earned a pair of second-place finishes (Driever in the 200 individual medley and the 500 freestyle, White in the 100 butterfly and the 100 backstroke), as well as Justin Ellis (second in the 100 free and third in the 200 free), Leo Powers (second in the 100 breaststroke and third in the 200 individual medley), Petroff (second in the 200 free), Salatas (third in both the 50 free and the 100 backstroke), Gutierrez (third in the 100 fly), McEachin (third in the 100 free) and Caleb Foung (third in the 100 breast).

Driever additionally took third in the 500 free.

The Mounties’ 400 freestyle relay team (Ellis, White, Petroff and Salatas) and the 200 medley relay team (Driever, Powers, White and McEachin) both took second place to earn crucial points as well.

Meanwhile, the MHS girls dismantled Mount St. Dominic in their season opener the same night, 125-45.

The Mountie girls dominated, winning nine of the 11 events.

Devon Muldoon and Ela Habjan each won two races, Muldoon capturing the 200 IM in 2:15.39 and winning the 100 free in 55.83 seconds, while Habjan won the 100 butterfly in 1:00.77 and the 100 backstroke in 59.06.

Winners in other individual events included Salma Benchekroun (200 freestyle, 2:10.26), Mia Padberg (50 freestyle, 26.46) and Gaea Caro (100 breaststroke, 1:17.65).

The 200 freestyle relay team of Morgan Crawford, Julianne Eckert, Benchekroun and Padberg took first place, as did the 200 medley relay team of Muldoon, Caro, Sol Jordan and Habjan.

Both Mountie teams improved to 2-0 on the young season on Thursday, Dec. 5, with wins over Livingston.

Montclair’s boys routed the Lancers, 125-23, while the girls triumphed, 54-40.

Both teams joined together two days later on Dec. 5, beating Livingston on the road by a combined score of 125-63, the boys winning 125-23 and the girls by a score of 54-40.

The Montclair swim program will have two home meets at the MSU pool this upcoming week before taking a  two-and-a-half week winter break.

The Mounties welcome Columbia this Tuesday, Dec. 17, and host West Orange on Thursday, Dec. 19. Both meets are slated to begin at 7:30 p.m.