BRICK TOWNSHIP — Peter Kellner of Brick Memorial High School’s boys swim team will be in familiar surroundings when he competes for the Mustangs in the Ocean County championships at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 9.
The girls compete at 3 p.m. on Sunday, with Brick Memorial senior co-captains Sonya Pearce in the sprint freestyles and Shanna Rodgers in the distance freestyle events leading the way.
Kellner exudes confidence as he looks to surpass last year’s third-place finish in the 500 freestyle for the boys team.
“I’m looking to be at least in the top two in the 500 freestyle and the top three in the 100 backstroke,” the talented sophomore said.K
ellner set a school record 5:01 in the 500 freestyle in a dual meet against Jackson Memorial High School before the Christmas break, the only time he was pressed in that event all season. And he has a season-best :58.2 in the backstroke that puts him in the company of the top contenders. Both times, he easily made the cut for the Shore Conference championships coming up in March.
And Kellner will be swimming at the same pool where he competes for the Ocean County YMCA team. He qualified for the state Y championships in March in the 100 and 200 butterfly events, the 200 backstroke, and the 200 and 500 freestyle events.
“That program helped me get ready for this season because of all the dry-land work we did beforehand,” Kellner said.
“He’s one of the top six in the 500 in the county,” Brick Memorial coach Don McCarrick said. “He’s maturing physically and has a great attitude toward the sport. He could be a [NCAA] Division I prospect.”
Zack Milko, another Brick Memorial sophomore with experience as a year-round swimmer with the Atlantic Club team, has qualified for the Shore Conference meet with a 1:01 time in the butterfly and a 2:12 in the individual medley. Milko and Kellner will swim on the medley and 400 freestyle relay teams.
Kellner also is excited about his high school teammates, who have performed better than the 3-2 record in dual meets thus far would indicate. The team is rebuilding from last year, when it had its first winning season at 8-3.
“Things are going pretty well, which shows what kind of team we have,” said McCarrick, whose team’s only losses so far were to defending Ocean County champion Toms River High School South and a close loss to Jackson Memorial High School.
“I’m just happy with how we’re doing, because we lost so many seniors from last year,” Kellner said. “But I’m not surprised.
We were confident going into the season.”
Certainly, there is a dedicated supporting cast inspired by the team’s success last season.
“That gave them reason to work harder,” McCarrick said. “Success breeds success. They want to continue to do well. Our top guys set the example and give them the others the push to want to do that.”
Four seniors share the captain role. Nick Brow is a distance freestyler, Chris Pionegro qualified for the Shore Conference meet in the butterfly, Jay Spiegel qualified in both sprint freestyles, and Tom Vroman qualified in the breaststroke.
Tim Choma, a junior, qualified for the Shore Conference in the 500 free and can help in the distance events on Saturday.
“He grinds it out,” McCarrick said. “He always gets points for the team.”
Pat Brow, Nick’s brother, swims the sprint freestyles and the breaststroke. Pat Vaughn, a junior, swims the individual medley and the breaststroke.
“We lost 12 from last year’s team, but we have 11 juniors this year who will be coming back,” the coach said.
As for Brick Memorial’s girls, who are off to a 2-4 start in dual meets, Pearce and Rodgers each qualified for the Shore Conference meet in their two freestyles. They also will be the key for the Mustang girls in the county meet on Sunday in the medley and 200 freestyle relays, along with sisters Abby and Jesse Wulfekotte. Abby is a senior and Jesse is a junior.
“The thing is, their times have kept going down,” coach Todd Estelle said.
Kim Rusoff, a senior, swims the breaststroke and also is on the 400 freestyle relay with senior Stevie Schipani, junior Jessica Urciuoli and sophomore Jessica Dow.