Nantucket holds off Natick late
As part of a dramatic, nerve-wrecking finish that came down to the final event, the Nantucket boys swimming team showed off its cold blood in the water en route to its first South sectional title Sunday at MIT.
After leading Natick by just 11 points with diving results left to be tallied and the 400 yard freestyle relay remaining, the Whalers came up clutch. They took gold in the final relay to ultimately hold off Natick’s comeback for a winning team score of 228 points. The Redhawks took second at 213, and defending champ Needham (195.5) finished third.
Anchoring that final relay for Nantucket was junior Tyler Roethke, as he edged Natick’s Antonio Arena in the by 1.14 seconds to help him finish with three of the team’s meet-high five firstplace finishes.
“It feels amazing. When the psych sheets came out on Tuesday, we knew we had a big job ahead of us,” Whalers head coach Jim Pignato said. “They’ve worked hard all season for this. They just had to come out here tonight and execute.”
“It was awesome,” Roethke added. “I’ve got to owe it to all my teammates, coaches, everyone that’s helped us. I didn’t do it, the whole team did it. Everyone scored. It was just everyone stepped it up so much.”
Natick didn’t win a single event, showing off its depth to nearly upset Nantucket, which led by 35 after the first eight events. Ben Schmelmer proved huge for the Redhawks by taking second in the 200 freestyle and third in the 100 freestyle, but Roethke and his teammates flexed their muscles at the right time.
Neither team placed in the top five in the diving event, leaving the meet up to the 400 relay. Roethke, who also won the 200 freestyle (1:42.55) and the 500 freestyle (4:39.88), said he, Grant Beebe, James Taaffe, and Aiden Roberts knew a win in the final event would secure the title. He also said it was perfect, as he “lives for those moments.”
“It was just, ‘Alright, if we win it, then we win the meet,’” he said of the conversation before the final relay. “We’ve got to play everything safe, and then just get aggressive in the water. And that’s exactly what we did. (Pignato) is the best at getting us fired up. … It’s been so fun.”
Beebe won the 100 butterfly (51.47), while he, Roethke, Kevin Johnson and Taaffe combined to also win the 200 medley relay. Other notable winners were Oliver Ames’ Kyle Gray in the 100 freestyle (48.11 seconds), Ashland’s Alex Pecze in the 100 backstroke (52.72), and Needham’s Henry Keegan in the 200 individual medley (1:56.79).
“It’s a huge team effort to be able to win this meet,” Pignato said. “It’s a really good core group of individuals.”
POINT MADE: Nantucket’s Tyler Roethke celebrates his win in the 200 freestyle at the South swimming sectional championships yesterday at MIT.