MORRISTOWN _ For Chatham's Regan Kology and Shana McLaughlin, it wasn't just a matter of winning races.
The two seniors, competing in the Morris County Swimming Championships for the last time, wanted to be certain they left a deep impression on their younger teammates.
Kology, on edge despite her experience, swam in the first individual event, finishing first in the 200 freestyle. McLaughlin, another veteran, was equally tense but took the gold in the 200-meter individual medley.
"We wanted to set an example for the younger kids, show them the ropes," said Kology, who later won the 400-meter freestyle and was part of two winning relay teams. "As seniors, we wanted to do well."
The underclassmen witnessed quite a show, watching the Cougars secure their sixth title in a row at Morristown High School on Saturday, Feb. 1. Chatham was dominant, scoring 365.5 points, while second-place Villa Walsh had 183. Kinnelon finished third with 147.
"This is the fourth championship for the seniors so it's a great way to cap off our careers," McLaughlin said. "We got some help from the freshmen. They're a Godsend. That makes me optimistic for the future and the rest of the season. It means we have depth."
One of the Chatham ninth graders, Alicia Iizuka, closed out the individual events by taking the 100-meter breaststroke in 1:13.74.
"I really respect my older teammates a lot," Iizuka said. "They're so fast and are good captains. They did well. I thought I should, too. I want to live up to what they've done and be the best I can be."
Iizuka said she was "surprised and happy to win." She said that while she was in middle school, she was anxious to join the high school team.
"I heard being on the swim team was fun and it really is," Iizuka said.
"Alicia came in nervous, just like all freshmen," Chatham coach Frank DiGiacomo said. "She's shown she's reliable. Alicia's been unbelievably good and has a geat work ethic. She has a very bright future."
On Friday night, Kology and McLaughlin were anxious about the meet. They didn't feel like talking during the Cougars' pasta party yet put on happy faces around their teammates.
"You never think something like this could happen again," Kology said. "You dream of it. Then is happens and you're like 'Wow.' I knew it was going to be our last counties. It's all really weird."
Roxbury's Allyson Kleinsorgen was a double winner, prevailing in the 50-meter freestyle (27.13) and the 100-meter backstroke (1:05.18). Kleinsorgen, a junior, tried to be less uptight going into her races.
Kleinsorgen loosened up by talking to the members of the Gaels boys squad and conversing with her competitors.
"The boys bust my chops," Kleinsorgen said. "We laugh and joke. My strategy was to have fun and let loose. I told myself I had to do it. I want to swim as fast as I can and see where it goes. It all worked out. I'm proud of myself and my teammates."
Meaghan Thompson, a senior from Kinnelon, took top honors in the 100-meter freestyle with a time of 58.63. McLaughlin was second.
"I'm pleased with my time," said Thompson, who won the 50 freestyle as a sophomore. "I'm surprised. We've had hard practices and haven't tapered yet. It was good to see No. 1 next to my name."
Thompson, bound for Lehigh in the fall, had a certain mindset for the county meet.
"I came here today to win," Thompson said. "What happened two years ago was unexpected. I'm proud of what my team did here today. I hope we can transfer that energy into the state tournament."
Kara Miller Radest turned in a strong effort in the 100-meter butterfly to aid Chatham in its quest for a title. The Cougars topped the pack in two relays, the 200 and 400-meter freestyle. Members of the relay teams were Jess and Emily Gorham, McLaughlin and Kology.
Villa Walsh set a record in the medley relay with a 2:02.53, eclipsing the mark of 2:02.55 established by Mendham last year. The Vikings' record-setting quartet consisted of Carolyn Silverman, Rebecca and Allison Morel and Caroline Feeney.
Chatham celebrated its championship by adhering to tradition and going to the Broadway Diner.
"Every time we win, it's a great feeling," DiGiacomo said. "It's a new team but, every year, we have great veterans. They're unbelievable kids. They support one another."
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