Riptide's Highest Finish at 12&under States in 10 years

Brian Rose

Continuing a string of improvements from recent years, the Raritan Valley YMCA Riptide swim team’s age-groupers finished this season with their highest YMCA state ranking in 10 years.

Held February 21st to 23rd at Ocean County YMCA in Toms River, New Jersey, 12&under YMCA States brings together the best swimmers from 27 different YMCAs in the state in two different age groups: 10&under and 11-12. Thousands of New Jersey swimmers participate in YMCA competitive swimming, but only 10% to 20% can make the challenging qualifying times for the state championships. Once at the meet, scoring points requires finishing in the top 16 places of an event—a tough feat at a meet that accepts only the best of the best.

Amazingly, in RVY’s small squad of 14 swimmers, every swimmer who attended the meet scored points, allowing the team to achieve its highest finish in 10 years. After finishing 27th in 2017, 17th in 2018, and 13th in 2019, Riptide moved up again to 11th in 2020.

The 10&under Boys age group led the way, with Joey Guadagnino of North Brunswick and Patrick Blalock of East Brunswick combining for three different 2nd-place finishes. Guadagnino finished 2nd in the 50 and 100 Yard Breaststroke (36.74, 1:19.22), and Blalock 2nd in the 100 Butterfly (1:10.27). All three performances were the fastest in team history for their respective events, and both boys placed top-16 in several other races.

The 10&under boys added more points with top-10 finishes from both the medley and freestyle relays. In addition to Guadagnino and Blalock, the relays also featured Zachary Cruz (Milltown), Soham Patel (East Brunswick), and Kevin Hall (Parlin).

Riptide also received top-8 finishes on the girls side in 10&under, with South Amboy’s Erin Noble finishing 6th in 50 Breast (39.07) and 7th in 100 Breast (1:27.54).

The team also had a strong showing in 11-12 Girls. Sami Guadagnino of North Brunswick finished higher in the breaststroke races with each passing day of the 3-day meet. She started with 11th in the 50 Breast (34.13), then 7th in the 200 Breast (2:42.07), and closed with 3rd in the 100 Breast (1:12.84). The latter two performances are team records.

Meanwhile, Kaitlin Hall of Parlin finished top-16 in 5 events. Under the meet’s prelims/finals system, this required her to race an astounding 14 times in 3 days, including doing the grueling 200 Fly (2:31.18) and 500 Free (5:37.75) twice each. Hall set team records in both those events, and closed the meet with her highest finish, a 7th in the 500 Free.

Mikaela Villajoaquin (North Brunswick) and Lizzie Molinelli (East Windsor) joined Hall and Guadagnino to score in both of the 11-12 Girls relays. On the 11-12 Boys side, Luke Babst (Old Bridge), Robert Noble (South Amboy), Chris Rodriguez (South Amboy), and Allen Sahraoui (Elizabeth) scored in the freestyle relay, bringing RVY’s final point total to 201.

“It’s an honor just to swim in such a high-level meet even if you don’t score points, and it’s crazy that this year everybody scored,” said Head Coach Brian Rose. “It’s a smaller team than many other YMCAs, but we finished up among some of the bigger teams, and it’s even more special that everyone who came contributed.”