DEPTFORD TOWNSHIP – The Oakcrest High School boys swimming team faced a crisis four years ago.
The Falcons lacked swimmers. They almost became a coed team.
Now, they’re South Jersey champions for the first time in the program's history.
Andrew Thompson, Dylan Horsey and Eric Weeks each won two individual events as top-seeded Oakcrest beat second-seeded Barnegat 103-67 to win the South Jersey Public C championship at Gloucester County Institute of Technology on Wednesday night. The Falcons (11-2) advance to the state semifinal Wednesday at Passaic County Technical Institute in Wayne.
“This means so much,” said Falcons coach Mike Demarest, who is in his second season. “The seniors on my team have had three different coaches. They’ve gone through tough times.”
On Wednesday, Oakcrest won nine of 11 events.
“This means everything,” Horsey, a senior, said. “We started with such a small team. Our team has grown. Now, we’re winning all this. It’s crazy.”
Thompson won the 200-yard individual medley and 100 butterfly, while Horsey won the 50 and 100 freestyle races. Weeks finished first in the 200 freestyle and 100 backstroke.
Barnegat (10-2-1) was making its first South Jersey final appearance. Oakcrest lost to Haddonfield 111-59 in last year’s final. That defeat motivated the Falcons on Wednesday.
“It really hurt,” Weeks said of the Haddonfield loss. “But it made us more comfortable coming into (Wednesday).
Wednesday's meet turned in Oakcrest’s favor during the fourth event when Horsey led a Falcons sweep the 50 free style to give Oakcrest a 42-20 lead at the break. Horsey won in 23.01, while Garrett LaRoche 923.71) and Adam Groff (24.02) finished second and third, respectively.
“I got so excited,” Horsey said of the sweep. “It was crazy.”
Thompson kept the momentum going by winning the first race after the break – the 100 butterfly – in 57.26 seconds.
Horsey then led another Falcons sweep in the 100 freestyle, winning in 51.98 as Carlos Lescano (52.26) finished second and LaRoche (54.12) finished third.
The boisterous Falcons fans leaned over the edge of the spectator balcony to take photos of the Oakcrest team with the South Jersey trophy. Horsey raised the trophy over his head as the fans cheered.
Weeks and Thompson are both sophomores and lead a talented core that will return next season – not that this season is over.
Wednesday seemed like the first of many big days ahead for the Falcons.
“It’s the heart and dedication of the whole team,” Thompson said. “We have great camaraderie, and we all love each other like brothers.”
Oakcrest has never been thought of as a swimming school.
They are one now.