When Matt Murphy and Jake Narvid step onto the starting blocks this weekend at the NJSIAA State Individual Swimming Championships, it will signal the end of an era for Gloucester Catholic swimming.
For the past four years, Rams coach Kevin Nolan has written their names into the lineup and knew he was just about guaranteed a couple of individual wins apiece and highly competitive relays. The past two years there may not have been a more prolific one-two punch anywhere in South Jersey.
As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.
“It is the end of an era,” Nolan said. “The athletic director (Pat Murphy), the teachers, they all talk about how great these kids are. It is impressive to see how well respected they are. They have been tremendous representatives of Gloucester Catholic swimming the past four years, and I know next year it is going to feel awful strange filling out a lineup card without their names on it.”
But first Nolan will have one more opportunity to watch Murphy and Narvid representing their school in the water at this weekend’s state individual championship meet at the Gloucester Institute of Technology.
Murphy is seeded eighth in both the 200 individual medley and the 100 breaststroke. He is the school record holder in both. He is aiming for a top three finish in both.
Meanwhile, Narvid will swim the 500 free and the 100 backstroke. He is seeded fourth in backstroke, a little more than half a second behind the top seed, Jackson Brookover of Cherry Hill East. He is, however, the top seed in the 500 free and the second seed, St. Augustine Prep’s Shane Washart, a training partner of both Murphy and Narvid with the Greater Philadelphia Aquatic Club, is more than six seconds behind.
Narvid’s goal is to win both races, but he has his sights set on an even bigger prize in the 500. The meet record of 4:24.04 was set by Cherry Hill East’s Sean Killion in 1986. It is the oldest record on the books, but with a seed time of 4:24.92 he is taking dead aim at it.
“Last year I was second after prelims but finished a disappointing sixth (in the 500),” said Narvid, who has signed to continue his academic and swimming career at the University of Tennessee. “I have been trying to do my best training leading up to this meet and the practices have been hard, but they’ve been going very well.
“I want to be first in prelims (in the 500), and first and get the meet record in the final. Then it is a quick turnaround, there is only one event between the 500 and the 100 back, but I want to win that and show people that I am more than just a distance swimmer. I am definitely motivated.”
Murphy, who was recruited by and accepted an appointment to the Naval Academy, is also looking forward to his races this weekend and relishes one last time to compete with Narvid for Gloucester Catholic one last time.
“Obviously I am going to be a little nervous,” Murphy admitted. “It’s a fast meet. But it is comforting to know I have Jake competing by my side this weekend. Hopefully Saturday I can swim best times and get a couple of high seeds for finals on Sunday.
“I am definitely shooting to finish top 3 in both my events and get personal best times in both. It would also be great to get top three in the medley relay. I am really looking forward to that also.”
Times and records aside, it is not lost on either of them that this will be the last time they represent Gloucester Catholic. They readily admit it has been a privilege.
“It is going to be a little sad because it’s been great being a part of the Gloucester Catholic family,” Murphy said. “When you look at all the great swimmers they’ve had, to represent the swim team has been an honor. It is really such a privilege and just a great experience.”
Narvid relayed how last year the team began wearing Hawaiian shirts on deck at meets, a fashion statement made by Nolan and his assistant, Nancy Pegues, several years ago. The swimmers just joined in.
“We started it last year,” Narvid said. “No one else was wearing them. It’s neat. It’s something that brings us together and when the other teams see us on deck they know we’re from Gloucester Catholic.”
And if Murphy and Narvid swim like they feel they can, they will not only make a fashion statement on deck, they'll make a more impressive statement in the pool.