Home Cherry Hill News Erlton Gators back on top at Cherry Bowl

Erlton Gators back on top at Cherry Bowl

Erlton avenged a disappointing second place finish in the 2016 Cherry Bowl to win its fourth title in six years on Saturday.

Erlton head coach Mike Wilkinson (right) and the Erlton Gators’ seniors celebrate after winning the 2017 Cherry Bowl title.

On Saturday, the Erlton Gators swim team was able to top off its golden anniversary with a Cherry Bowl triumph.

At the 58th annual Cherry Bowl at Kingston Estates Swim Club, the Gators avenged last year’s disappointing second place finish at Cherry Bowl and defeated Old Orchard by 24 points for the team’s fourth Cherry Bowl title in six years. The title coincides with the 50th anniversary of the swim team’s first year of competition in 1967.

“It really shows the legacy we’ve had in Cherry Hill,” 18-year-old Erlton swimmer Daniel Brown said. “It’s really cool that the 50th anniversary we win Cherry Bowl.”

The Erlton Gators celebrated in the pool on Saturday after winning their fourth Cherry Bowl title in six years.

Old Orchard and Erlton have developed a rivalry over the past year. At the 2016 Cherry Bowl, Old Orchard ruined Erlton’s plans for three straight Cherry Bowl titles, edging the Gators for first place. Earlier in July, the two teams met again in a Tri-County Swimming Pool Association regular season dual meet, with Old Orchard winning. The loss was Erlton’s only defeat in the 2017 season and motivated the Gators to try to snatch the Cherry Bowl title back on Saturday.

“We worked hard all year,” head coach Mike Wilkinson said. “We were gearing for this meet. This was our focus.”

Wilkinson said the team showed greater determination and focus than it did when the Gators faced Old Orchard earlier in the season.

“The boys and the girls really wanted to bring the bowl back home for year 50,” he said.

It was a two-team race for first place the entire meet as Old Orchard and Erlton stayed within striking distance of each other and leaped well ahead of the rest of the competition. For most of the first half of the meet, it was Old Orchard on top. However, many of Erlton’s swimmers were confident they could come from behind.

“Throughout the whole season, we were weaker in the beginning of the meets and came on strong in the end,” Brown said.

“We knew if we kept it close, we’d have a chance,” 19-year-old swimmer Chris Piserchia added.”

Erlton was able to close the gap in the breaststroke and butterfly events, giving them an 11-point lead heading into the final 10 events, the freestyle relays. In the 2016 Cherry Bowl, Erlton finished in second place in part due to a disqualification from the girls 15–18 freestyle relay team in the second-to-last event.

“Coming into the free relays, we wanted to play it safe with our relays so a DQ didn’t happen,” 18-year-old swimmer Meghan Smart said.

This year, there was no disqualification for Erlton. The Gators held onto their lead in the younger age groups and then broke away with a record-breaking swim from the boys 13–14 200-meter freestyle relay in the third-to-last event. The relay team won their race by more than five seconds with a record time of 1:47.18, earning 32 points for the Gators. With Old Orchard only earning eight points in the same event, Erlton gained some breathing room and cruised through the final two events to victory.

For the Erlton seniors who were swimming in their final Cherry Bowl, the championship was especially exciting. All of them recalled the disappointment of losing last year’s Cherry Bowl and they were determined to put the team back on top.

“All of us have swam for so long that it feels good to end it like this,” 18-year-old Tory Yost said.

No other team came within 150 points of either Erlton or Old Orchard in the final standings. Tying for third place with 789 points were Covered Bridge Swim Club and Woodcrest Swim Club. For Woodcrest, it was its highest finish in Cherry Bowl since 1985 and a huge improvement from earlier in the decade, where the team had four straight last place finishes from 2010 to 2013.

For more a list of winners, photos and more stories on Cherry Bowl 2017, check back with www.cherryhillsun.com.

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