Even though O’Bryant freshman Justin Chung was competing in his first Boston City League swimming championships Wednesday afternoon, he wasn’t shocked by the fact that two of the teams in the three-team field were fighting to be the bridesmaid without much chance of being the bride.
Everyone at the Madison Park pool knew it was a given that Latin Academy (130 points) would walk away with its 22d city championship — leaving O’Bryant (77) and East Boston (64) to battle for second place, as they always do.
“Actually, my sister is a 10th grader, so she swam for BLA last year, I kind of knew about BLA and that they are really good,” said Chung, who along with another freshman, Matthew Cummings, won half of O’Bryant’s individual gold medals to help the Tigers take second place.
O’Bryant coach Juan Tapia was thrilled with the silver, especially since O’Bryant and East Boston split their season series at one win apiece this year.
“For us to beat East Boston, that’s kind of our goal at the beginning of the year, so we’re excited, and to come away with four first-place finishes is pretty amazing,” he said. “We did that a couple years ago. I had two kids graduate last year that I didn’t think I’d be able to replace and I had a group of freshmen that replaced them right away.”
Chung won the 200 individual medley with a personal-best time of 2 minutes 18.07 seconds to give his team a 20-16 lead over the Jets after three events.
"I’m not really that good, it’s not my best stroke,” Chung said of the butterfly leg of the IM. “But in backstroke and breaststroke, I’m good at it, so I went hard. So I tried to go ahead of everybody. And that succeeded. In freestyle, I just tried to hang on to first place.”
East Boston pulled within 2 points of O’Bryant, 32-30, after junior Mateo Galeano won the 100 butterfly with a personal-best 104.24. It was also his first ever gold at a city meet. And he did it with a sore shoulder.
“That was a hard race, and I have been training the whole year for this,” Galeano said. “That’s the outcome I’ve wanted the whole time.
"Happiness, that’s all I can say. Just training hard the whole year and focusing on my goals, that’s all I did.”
Two events later, Chung won his second gold, posting his best time in the 100 freestyle, 56.21. O’Bryant only maintained its 2-point lead, however, because each team scored 7 points in the event.
O’Bryant pulled away from East Boston for good after Cummings shaved 15 seconds off his No. 2-ranked seed time to win the 500 freestyle in a time of 5:53.27. The victory gave the Tigers a 48-38 lead over East Boston after seven events.
“That 500 free was awesome, I think I’ve only put him in it once or twice this year,” Tapia said. “That’s huge because I think East Boston didn’t come in until sixth and my other guy came in fifth.”
East Boston coach David Arinella said one of his captains would have been the top seed in the 500 but, because of personal reasons, he didn’t show up.
“No excuses, but we have a 500 swimmer who is not here today and it made a great difference,”Arinella said. “Without that, we got hammered there. And in a close meet like this, it could go down to the last event maybe for O’Bryant and us. You can’t be behind by that many points.”
Cummings — who also beat the top seed in the 100 backstroke to win his second gold medal with a time of 1:04.62 — said he would have liked to go up against the best in the 500. And he came to the pool Wednesday with the intention of beating Latin Academy in the team standings.
“I think you should have the proper mind-set and think like a winner and don’t think like a sore loser,” he said. “Always think positive. I mean, if they win, they win.They are working hard, we’re working hard."
Tapia said he thinks his team is actually closing the gap with Latin Academy.
“A little bit, yeah, with first-place finishes like that,” he said. “In numbers we can’t match them but if we can get another couple top swimmers, we’d be right there.”
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