Boys Swimmer of the Year: Moorestown’s Josh Fong dominant in butterfly

The 2019 state champion in the boys 100-yard butterfly, Fong’s versatility and leadership were assets to Moorestown throughout the season.

Moorestown High School senior swimmer Josh Fong is used to seeing himself compared to his older brother, Zach Fong.

A 2015 Moorestown graduate, Zach was a 2014 state champion in the 100-yard butterfly and 500-yard freestyle and is wrapping up an All-American college swimming career with the University of Virginia, where he will graduate from this spring.

Earlier this season, Josh decided to also attend Virginia and smiled when he saw headlines such as the one in Swimming World Magazine stating, “Josh Fong Follows Brother’s Footsteps, Commits to Virginia.”

“Everyone says, ‘Are you going to be like your brother? Are your times as good as your brother’s,’” Josh said. “I used to think of it as pressure, but I think it’s kind of just funny now.”

In his final high school meet, Josh followed Zach in another way. On March 3 at the 2019 NJSIAA Meet of Champions, five years after Zach took the state title in the 100-yard butterfly, Josh did the same, winning the butterfly for his first individual state title. Fong was the only male South Jersey state champion from outside of Atlantic County and is The Sun Newspapers 2019 Boys Swimmer of the Year.

“There’s nothing really like realizing you’re the state champion in an event,” Fong said. “It was extra special for me because it was my last swim representing Moorestown High School.”

Fong had been pushing to win the butterfly state title since he was a sophomore. In both 2017 and 2018, Fong made the finals of the 100-yard butterfly at MOC, but came up just short of victory with third-place finishes both times.

This year, after putting up what he felt was a slow time of 49.92 seconds in the preliminaries, Fong decided he was going to do everything he could to win the butterfly. He set his sights on the meet record of 48.68 seconds and nearly reached it. Fong’s winning time of 49.08 allowed him to win the race by nearly eight-tenths of a second over Bridgewater-Raritan High School sophomore Trent Russano.

“There wasn’t any holding back,” Fong said. “It was all out from the second I hit the water until the second my hand hit the wall.”

Not only did Fong put up a winning time in the butterfly, he also had to swim in two events earlier in the meet. Fong also competed in the 200-yard individual medley, where he finished fourth, and was a part of Moorestown’s 200-yard medley relay team.

“He’s swimming basically a 200 butterfly in 45 minutes,” head coach Jeff DeNick said. “He’s swimming 50 in the 200 medley (relay), comes out, another 50 in the 200 medley and then 100 in the butterfly. That’s a lot of fly. I’ve only had one or two other guys who have wanted to do that or could do that with a high rate of success.”

Fong’s stamina and versatility were assets for Moorestown all season. DeNick didn’t use Fong in the butterfly much during the regular season due to team needs, instead moving him to other events such as freestyle or breaststroke.

“The quality of the different events he can swim was an asset for our team and was huge for us this year,” DeNick said.

Not only is Fong a state champion, but he’s busy out of the pool as well. Fong is taking five Advanced Placement classes this year as well as multi-variable calculus, a class Fong describes as “beyond AP.” Fong keeps up of his schoolwork while also practicing 20-plus hours a week with his club team, Jersey Wahoos. Even with his busy schedule, Fong still took on the role as one of Moorestown’s team captains this year. Fong said all of his experiences have him prepared for college.

“It’s been a lot of academics in addition to the athletic workload,” he said.

In the pool, Fong said competing for Moorestown taught him the importance of teamwork in swimming. He felt the team’s unity was strongest during the last meet of the playoffs, a tough 98–72 loss against the eventual Group B state champions, Mainland Regional High School.

“We swam our hearts out that meet,” Fong said. “We may have lost, but everyone was having such a good time together. Everyone was cheering, we were so loud. It showed me it’s not just about the points, because you’re not always going to have the team to win. But as long as everyone is supporting each other the entire time and you’re really getting the team experience out of the meet, that’s the most important part.”

DeNick saw how the program shaped Fong during his time at Moorestown and believes he, as well as his brother, will serve as an inspiration for the future Quaker swimmers.

“It will be the first time in a long time we don’t have a Fong on the team,” said DeNick, who has had either Zach or Josh on his team since 2012. “At the same time, it leaves an opportunity for somebody else to take over and achieve.”