By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Before the high school swimming season began, Kearny High School head coach Scott Fuchs had high expectations for his squad.
But Fuchs never imagined what eventually would transpire.
“We had the best season by far since I’ve been the coach,” Fuchs said.
The season started with a championship for both the boys’ and girls’ teams in the Kearny Relay Carnival. That was just a precursor as to what would follow.
The Kardinal boys’ team would go on to finish second in the Hudson County Public Schools championships to Union City and finished fourth overall in the Hudson County Interscholastic Athletic League championships.
They were 11-3 in the regular season, losing only to county champion St. Peter’s Prep, Bayonne and Union City.
Even more amazing was the team’s ability to break records.
Of the 11 school records that were set in the pool in the past, 10 were shattered this season by a group of dedicated seniors who gave their all to the Kearny swim program.
“We had a strong team last year, but this year was built on the six seniors who were returning,” Fuchs said. “I coined them ‘The Sensational Six,’ because that’s what they were. They led the way and made sure that we were getting better.”
Leading the way was senior Matt Amar, who had a phenomenal senior year.
“He was outstanding,” Fuchs said. “I call him the Lightning McQueen of the pool.”
Fuchs is referring to the fastest in the animated movie, “Cars.”
Amar was second in the county in the 50-yard freestyle and did so after missing almost two full weeks with bronchitis. Amar’s battle with the illness forced a brief hospital stay, but he came back to compete in the county meet.
“It was his first day back after having the bronchitis and he was great,” Fuchs said.
Amar managed to break school records in the 50, 100, 200 and 500-yard freestyle, as well as being part of the 200- yard medley relay and the 200 and 400-yard freestyle relays.
It means that Amar’s name will be all over the Kearny record books, much like it was when his older brother Samy was swimming for the Kardinals.
Another key performer was Adam Coppola, who is a club swimmer and competes all year round. Coppola finished third in the county in the 100-yard backstroke and was second in the league meet. He also broke the school record in the backstroke and competed in the 200-yard individual medley, as well as all three of the team’s relays.
Mateo Caceres was the team’s butterfly specialist. Caceres broke the school record for the butterfly and finished in the top six at both the county and league championships.
Gabe Zanandrea was once a foreign exchange student from Brazil, but had such a great experience in Kearny that he decided to stay with family members to complete his high school education here. Zanadrea was part of three relay teams and did both the freestyle and butterfly.
Team captain Sid Naik competed in the breaststroke and the medley relay.
“He was the leader of the team for the last three years,” Fuchs said. Another team captain is Patrick Carvajal. “He’s the glue who kept the team together, especially when it came to discipline,” Fuchs said. “He was perhaps the team’s hardest worker.”
Needless to say, the group of seniors will be missed tremendously.
“This was a big developmental year for our program,” Fuchs said. “It’s going to take a while for us to recover from the loss of these six. Their footprints have been left in this program for a very long time.”
Fuchs hopes that the Kardinals can be as competitive in the future as they were this season.
“We’re always going to be very competitive,” Fuchs said. “The younger kids have a chance to be successful because of what these guys accomplished. They set the bar pretty high. It’s something that we have to work for all season long, throughout the summer and fall and not just in November.”
They’ve obviously left a legacy that won’t soon be forgotten.