Photo: The 2017-18 Belmont High Boys’ Swim team, Middlesex League champions.
“How about those Marauders!” shouted senior captain Will Findlay as his teammates cheered in response, as the team celebrated winning the Middlesex League regular season championship for the first time since 1998 after defeating the coop team of Watertown/Arlington high schools, 87-78, in the final dual meet of the season held in the Higginbottom Pool on Friday, Jan. 26.
The Marauders finished the season undefeated, 6-0, in the Middlesex League, losing only once in 2017-2018 by one point to Division 1 Needham to complete the year at 7-1.
“What a season,” said Findlay, one of the team’s five captains and its charismatic leader. “All the work that we put in for the past two years culminated in today. That’s a testament to our freshman class but also all the hard work by all my teammates and the coaching staff.”
For first-year Belmont Head Coach James Saidnawey, the trip to the regular season championship was more than met his expectations. “I knew we had a good team and when the freshmen stepped up early, I thought we could compete with anyone in the league.”
The 9th grader came through against Watertown/Arlington (which saw the coop team end its season a more than respectable 3-3) as three Belmont freshmen records fall by the wayside in a season where underclassmen produced better than expected results. Frosh standout Tor Metelmann is fast becoming Belmont High’s most versatile swimmer since Jessie Blake-West, setting a new 50-yard freestyle standard at 23,19 seconds and being a member of the two relays – 4×200 medley and 4×400 free.
“Tor is just a star, and he’s going to continue to perform like that for us, not just this year but for years to come,” said Findlay.
Belmont dominated Friday’s meet, winning eight of the eleven events, with big performances by Luc Durand in his speciality the 100 fly (55.85), Sam Thompson in the 100 free (53.73) with Metelmann adding the 100 backstroke (in a swift 57.53) to his arsenal of talents.
For Findlay, his final race as a Marauder – anchoring in the 4×400 to victory – was special “since I have been swimming in this pool for years. It’s great, not just for the team and me, but it hopefully starts a winning tradition for the program.”
The new championship banner that will go up in the Wenner Field House was in no less part won two days earlier on Wednesday, Jan. 24 when Belmont defeated league standout Lexington, as the meet came down to the final relay before the Marauders pulling out a 92-84 win.
“Let my heart get back to normal,” said Saidnawey when the score was announced to the standing room crowd at the Higginbottom. “[The meet] was won by our guys battling for [places] behind the winners that gave us the margin we needed at the end.”
Case in point: with the score tied at 50, Belmont went 1,2 and 5 in the 500 free with Damien Autissier winning with open water at 5 minutes 24 seconds followed by a gutsy swim by Jason Iler-Kenistan who stormed back in the final 200 to finish in 5:51.53, taking second by half a second while Norman Fu earned an essential point in fifth.
“Jason is an absolute animal as a freshman, and he is going to be a great swimmer for years to come,” said Findlay.
Belmont followed up the 500 by winning the 4×200 free relay as Metelmann, Rickey Ye, Findlay and anchor Thompson out-touched Lexington’s outstanding free swimmers by half a second (1:35.97 to 1:36.50). Despite a significant win by Durand in the 100 back, Lexington cut the deficit to six points, 76-70, leading into the penultimate race, the 100 breaststroke, which is longtime Belmont speciality (for both the girls and boys).
Metelmann continued his dominance in the race, going first in 1:04.76 followed by Bulat in 1:08.15 taking the second spot by nearly a second. And it was Ye who powered the final lap to grab fourth place in 1:10.44, outreaching Lexington’s swimmer by .13 seconds. The 12-4 point advantage gave the Marauders a 14 point lead entering the 4×400 free relay.
Only a sweep by the Minuteman of the three scoring places would result in the meet-ending up in a tie. But safe entries off the blocks saw Belmont’s #1 squad of Durand, Justin Dong, Michael Pizzuto and Autissier came home in second and secured the most prominent team victory in many years.
This week, Belmont will attempt to add the Middlesex League Meet title to the regular season title before heading to the Division 2 North Sectionals and then a visit to the State Championships in mid-February.