by Andrew Garda

WAYNE — Montclair High School’s boys swim team was riding high coming off a big North Jersey, Section A upset of River Dell on Monday, Feb. 12, as they headed to meet No. 1 seeded Passaic Tech. Nobody had expected MHS, the No. 3 seeded team in the tournament, to get this far, despite compiling an 11-3 season record while also going 9-2 in the District.

And it likely came as no surprise when PCTI took the finals match 113-57 on Friday, Feb. 16.

Don’t tell that to the Mounties or head coach Ed Koenigsfest, though, who came in determined to make the Bulldogs earn that North Jersey, Section A title.

“We knew it would be a tough meet,” Koenigsfest said. “We knew their three lanes were the equivalent of our fastest lane, so it was just a matter of trying to get as many points as we can, without getting last place because you don’t get any points for that,”

Unfortunately, too many times the Mounties found one of their swimmers in that final spot. There were a few exceptions, like Bailey Morganlander’s win in the 500-yard freestyle race, and some strong second place finishes by swimmers like Justin Ellis in the 100-yard breaststroke or Tommy White in the 100-yard butterfly.

Unfortunately, those exceptionally strong lanes Koenigsfest talked about were overwhelming and the Mounties just couldn’t gain enough points to challenge the eventual Section Champs.

“We tried to get as many points as we could,” Koenigsfest said. “Place as high up as we could to give them the best fight we had. I think the guys did that.”

Koenigsfest pointed to the many young swimmers MHS fielded, all of whom swam strong in very difficult races, and was especially pleased with the 200 IM team.

“We have a lot of freshmen in our 200 IM,” Koenigsfest said. “It was all freshmen swimming in each lane, so I was very happy with how our younger guys did against these tough upperclassmen. They did a good job and I’m proud of them.”

Bailey Morganlander took first place in the 500m Freestyle race during the Mounties' North 1, Division A finals against PCTI.
Bailey Morganlander took first place in the 500m Freestyle race during the Mounties' North 1, Division A finals against PCTI.

While the year didn’t end quite how the Mounties were hoping, Koenigsfest said there were a lot of positives over the course of the season.

“Overall, we had a great season,” he said. “As the third seed coming into the finals was a gift in itself, so we’re very happy about that. We had a big win against River Dell on Monday, that was huge. Second place in counties this year? I couldn’t be happier than I am.”

While the boys are done, Koenigsfest has several swimmers heading to the Meet of Champions — also referred to as the Individual State Swimming Championships — on the girls side. The event will take place at the Gloucester County Insitute of Technology in Sewell on Sunday, March 4.

Devon Muldoon will represent Montclair in the 200 IM, and will join Jordan Caro, Amy Chen, and Mia Padberg in the 200 freestyle relay.

Not only is Koenigsfest looking forward to seeing Muldoon and her teammates compete one more time, he’s optimistic about the future of both the boys and girls programs. With so much youth on the roster, the Mounties seem primed to be a problem for the District over the next few years.

“We have depth all the way down,” Koenigsfest said. “Once you move that all the way down, that’s where you need it. Clearly PCTI had it and unfortunately we didn’t but I’d take my guys any day of the week. They’re a great group of guys and I was very happy with how they did.”

Koenigsfest saw a lot of improvement this season, up to and including the work the boys did on Friday.

“We got a lot of personal best times, which is very important,” he said. “Winning would have been awesome but them personally achieving their best was good for me.”