CLIFTON _ Tough. Very difficult. Certainly not impossible.
That's how St. Elizabeth senior Melissa Feeney viewed the Panthers' Non-Public B semifinal swim meet against Mount St. Dominic on Tuesday, Feb. 21.
"We knew coming in that Mount St. Dominic had a lot of depth," Feeney said. "They're very good. This was an important meet and similar to the one we had against Mountain Lakes. You just focus on what you're doing and swim your own lane."
The fourth-seeded Panthers gave it their best effort but, as Feeney feared, top-seeded Mount St. Dominic was too much, securing a 117-53 victory at the Boys & Girls Club of Clifton.
Mount St. Dominic won every event with the exception of the 100 breaststroke. Morris Plains' Feeney, who will attend Lehigh on a scholarship, finished first in that race with a time of 1:10.07. She was second in the butterfly.
"We knew this wouldn't be easy," St. Elizabeth coach Greg Yarnall said. "We were more than 1,000 power points behind Mount St. Dominic. Our last state meet against Gloucester Catholic was close and came down to the last relay. We gave it a good try. We asked our 10 seniors to swim like it was their last time doing it."
Yarnall considered putting Feeney in another event instead of the breaststroke, her specialty. However, Feeney wanted to swim it.
"I thought Melissa might be tired of it," Yarnall said. "She told me she's not. I'm glad Melissa did well in it."
Freshman twins Mackenzie and Tracey Collins were outstanding in their races on Tuesday, establishing personal bests in the 200 IM and 200 freestyle, respectively.
The setback didn't put a damper on the Panthers' season. St. Elizabeth went 8-2 in regular season meets and was 9-3 overall.
Allie Kaufmann and Maura Mullaney, both sophomores, were consistent. Kaufmann, Yarnall said, could "swim anything." She was best at the 50 and 100 freestyle. Mullaney was a solid performer in the butterfly and backstroke.
Bree Batiste, a senior from Denville, excelled in the sprint freestyle. Another senior, Maddie McCleary, was strong in the breaststroke.
"Not every senior on the team was a superstar but they all contributed," Yarnall said. "They were a big part of our season. We had a lot of nice efforts all the way through."
Feeney felt the Panthers succeeded because they simply enjoyed swimming and practice.
One of the highlights of the season was St. Elizabeth's trip - the first in school history - to LaSalle University for the National Catholic High School Swimming Championships. The Panthers were fifth overall and Feeney took first in the breaststroke and second in the 200 IM.
Kaufmann garnered third in the 100 freestyle. Feeney, Kaufmann, Mackenzie Collins and Maura Mullaney were on the third-place medley relay team.
"That was a really great trip," Feeney said. "I got to live with the girls on the team and really get to know them. It's very different than just having a class with them."
Yarnall said it was a bit odd not to be moving on in the state tournament.
"Everyone at school just assumes we'll do well," Yarnall said. "Some of the teams at our school don't win many games. That's why it's a shock when we don't win."
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