• Dan Russoman

Stingrays happy to be back


Giovanni Catania won three events in Hammonton’s season-opening meet against Tarnsfield last weekend. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—A year after their entire season was canceled, the Hammonton Stingrays drew a large crowd to the Hammonton Swim Club on June 19 for the start of the Suburban Swim Association of South Jersey (SSASJ) season when they hosted the Tarnsfield Torpedoes.


Despite dropping the meet 428-137, the Stingrays’ swimmers all enjoyed the day and were happy just to be back competing in the pool this summer.


“It’s great to be back after losing all of last season,” Stingrays SSASJ league representative Shawn McCloud said.


“We’re excited to have the kids back in the pool. We’ve had a really nice turnout this season and are hoping that we’ll be able to complete the season and get things somewhat back to normal this year,” McCloud said.


Last year, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) caused the SSASJ to cancel its season. Once swimmers were allowed back in the pool, Hammonton opted to host weekly workout sessions for its swimmers to train and improve their skills, and the season ended with a small meet where swimmers competed against their own Stingray teammates for awards and medals.


This year, the Stingrays are back in the pool competing against other league clubs, and are being led by a new head coach, Lauren Ciccariello. Ciccariello is the head swim coach at Cedar Creek High School and brings years of experience to the Stingrays’ program.


“She [Ciccariello] is doing a great job and the kids really enjoy working with her,” McCloud said.


Ciccariello was busy coaching her team and offering encouragement to the younger swimmers last weekend, but had time for a quick comment.


“I’m excited to be working with all our swimmers. They’re working hard and having fun and hopefully, we’ll do well this season,” Ciccariello said.


The team added 24 new swimmers this season, as interest in the program continues to be high.


Hammonton resident, and Air Force veteran, Steve Zawrotny opened the meet by singing our National Anthem, then the younger/newer swimmers got in the water for the fun-filled kickboard races.


Hammonton had more than 50 individual swimmers compete against Tarnsfield.


“They’re [Tarnsfield] one of the better teams in the league and it’s good to see our kids competing,” McCloud said.


Kyle Muller, one of Hammonton’s veteran swimmers, said he was enjoying the competition.


“It feels good to be back this year. I’ve been swimming (with the Stingrays) since I was a little kid, so I wanted to keep doing it. We missed out last year because of COVID, so it’s good to be back swimming this summer,” Muller said.


Muller, who will begin his senior year at St. Augustine Prep this fall, was pleased with his results last weekend, but hopes to improve.


“I think I swam OK. I feel pretty good about how I did today,” he said.


Hammonton had 11 first place finishes, 15 second place finishes, 30 third place finishes and 29 fourth place finishes. Across the 19 relay events, Hammonton had one first place finish, five second place finishes, five third place finishes, and one fourth place finish.


Also, Hammonton had 39 swimmers showing improved times in the meet across 64 different individual events, when compared to their time-trial results the week prior to the meet.


Among the first place finishers were Giovanni Catania, who won the boys 13-14 100 individual medley, the 50 backstroke and the 50 butterfly and Everly Husta, who won the girls 8 and under 25 freestyle and 25 backstroke.


Other winners included Kylie Short in the girls 8 and under breaststroke; Kendall Husta in the girls 9-10 breaststroke; Bryan Falciani in the boys 9-10 breaststroke; Brynn Gribbin in the girls 8 and under butterfly; Grace Gribbin, who won the girls 11-12 butterfly; and Massimo Catania, who was first in the boys 15-18 butterfly.


Also winning was the girls 8 and under freestyle relay team of Brynn Gribbin, Nina Rizzotte, Vera Birnbaum and Everly Husta.


Second place finishers for Hammonton included: Evan Kiss, Massimo Catania, Glyza Canovas, Brynn Gribbin, Kellen Frankel, Jordan Fatato, Bryan Falciani, Grace Gribbin, Vera Birnbaum, Brennan Kiss, Isabella Falciani, Dominic Cushinotto and Joey Zingrone.


This weekend, Hammonton will swim at Raccoon Valley, then return home on July 10 to host Elmer.