By Rich Fisher | Contributing Editor
On Friday, Feb. 22, Paul Retterer was gearing up for the final state championship swim meet of his high school career. That included checking his cell phone most of the evening.
“I was getting texts from all of my past teammates the night before, [saying], ‘Hey kill it, hey good luck,” the Christian Brothers Academy senior said. “The alumni, the whole thing. You never really graduate from CBA swimming. It’s something that’s always a part of you. No matter where you go and what you’re gonna, do it’s always gonna be there.”
Photo Gallery: CBA wins swimming title
That is much the reason why the Lincroft-based school won its ninth NJSIAA Non-Public A title in 10 years with a 106-64 victory over St. Augustine in the Feb. 23 championship meet at The College of New Jersey. It’s also why the Colts have won 29 straight Monmouth County and Shore Conference championships.
In the CBA pool, it’s as much about chemistry as talent. The Colts know they have a legacy to live up to and bond together to uphold it.
“CBA has this tradition of being an elite team in New Jersey,” senior Ryan Burke said. “In the back of our minds we always think, ‘We’re CBA.’ But the energy that was displayed at our meets we had was crazy. Everyone is always rooting for each other. In club races, it’s so much different. Everyone is quiet, just watching. At CBA you don’t really worry about your time, you worry about your place. The whole team is jumping around. There’s just a great energy and a great atmosphere.”
It’s inspired by coach Vito Chiaravalloti, who swam for the program before taking it over.
“You gotta love Coach,” Retterer said. “He’s an awesome motivational speaker, he really knows how to amp the team up. He set the tone for the entire meet.”
It was all on display against St. Augustine, which is the only other school this decade to beat CBA in a championship meet, which the Hermits did in 2017. The Colts won all three relays and took five individual events, as Retterer won four times and Burke was on all three winning relay teams. But both pointed to some underclassmen as keys to victory.
“We mapped it out a little bit and we thought it would be really close, but with our team everyone was stepping up,” Burke said. “Sophomores like Kevin Truscio, Matt D’Elia and Tom Shea all came through. Without them, we would have been in trouble.”
Shea had two fourth-place finishes in the 200 and 500 freestyles, D’Elia took a second in the 100 fly and was on the winning 200 medley relay, and Truscio swam to two-thirds in the 100 back and fly (top five swimmers earn team points). Retterer pointed out that Shea was coming off an illness and Truscio had not swam the back or fly all year.
“I was really proud of those [sophomores] showing up and saying, ‘Hey, I’m here to race,’” Retterer said.
Retterer won the 200 free and 100 back and swam the 200 and 400 free relays. Other Colt winners were Liam Morris (200 IM), Sammy Rennard (500 free) and Ben Dupree (200 free). Neil Nejame, Dupree, Mason Wolfe and Rennard were all part of winning relay teams. Also scoring points were Colbey Ramsay, Jack Martinek, Evan Mahns, Matthew Van Lew, Shane Brennan and Trey Shaw. CBA had just two races in which it had sixth-place finishes.
Burke felt the tone was set in the very first event.
“Taking one-two in the 200 medley [relay] just hyped up the whole team for the rest of the meet,” he said. “Everyone just fed off each other. That was big. The 100 fly was big going 2-3-4 and going 1-2-3 in the 100 fly was big as well.”
Burke will continue swimming at Bryant University in Rhode Island next year, while Retterer is headed to the University of Southern California. But each will take a piece of CBA swimming with them.
“This year our whole thing was, ‘a season for a lifetime,’” Retterer said. “These are your brothers you’re surrounded by and battling with, and a season is a lifetime. It kind of speaks for itself. We had a really special group this year, and we were able to come together and do something special at the end.”