Montclair YMCA Dolphins swim team makes waves at championship meets

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Relay Team at Holiday Classic: Spyros Salatas, Liam Hood, Enzo Wood and Connor Townson.
Head Coach Paulo Madeira and swimmer Enzo Wood after achieving his first YMCA Short Course Nationals for the 400 IM during Holiday Classic 2019.

MONTCLAIR, NJ — The Montclair YMCA Dolphins swim team turned in outstanding performances at two championship meets, held on Dec. 13-15.

At the EEX Holiday Classic XXXIII, held at Rutgers University, 16 of the team’s swimmers qualified for a meet that has traditionally been one the most anticipated all year. More than 35 teams from the Tri-State area participated this year.

Many swimmers turned in individual best performances during this meet:

Ela Habjan, 14, of Montclair, attained a cut for the Speedo Winter Junior Championship and made finals in all her backstroke events, taking second place (100 back) and sixth place (200 back), as well as qualifying for YMCA Short Course Nationals in the 500 free.

Enzo Wood, 16, of Glen Ridge made the YMCA Short Course Nationals cut for the first time in the 400 IM event.

Liam Hood, 17, of Glen Ridge placed 14th for the 400 individual medley, qualifying for the YMCA SC Nationals, and  Connor Townson of Glen Ridge, 15, placed 14th for the 200 breaststroke and qualified for a YMCA SC Nationals in the 100 breast.

Howard Zhuang, 14, of West Orange placed fourth and ninth in the 100/200 breaststroke. Lola Somerstein, 10, of Montclair placed fourth in the 100 backstroke, seventh in the 200 freestyle, and eighth in the 50 back. Kal Sobier, 14, of Montclair finaled in both his best events finishing 13th in the 500 free and 200 free.

Lucas Foung, 12, of Montclair was 12th in the 100 back, and 10th in the 200 back, and Tate Faherty, 12, of Bloomfield was 16th in the 200 back. Femi Oshodi, 12, placed sixth in the 50 and 200 fly, and seventh in the 100 fly.

That same weekend, 60 Dolphins were competing at Ocean County YMCA in the Winter Classic. There were multiple fantastic performances that included 63 top-8 finishes.

Two Dolphin swimmers placed first: Aly Breikaa, 13, of Bloomfield, 100 butterfly; and Vasilios Salatas, 14, of Montclair,  200 back. The 13/14 boys 200 medley relay consisting of Jasper Schnieders-Smith, Need Kojic, Ryan LoCicero and Aly Breikaa also took first place.

There were multiple second-places awarded: Dom Ancey, 15, of Belleville, 100 and 200 back; Nead Kojic, 14, of Montclair, 100 breast; Ryan LoCicero, 13, of Nutley, 100 fly; Mizel McCeachin, 16, of Montclair, 100 fly; and Caitlyn Tagliareni, 14, of Bloomfield, 200 back and 200 butterfly.

Some standout performances by the following swimmers who finished in the top third-fifth places were  Ali Breikaa, 13, of Bloomfield, 50/100/200 free; Nathan Espiritu, 16, of Bloomfield, 200 back; Lauren Espiritu, 12, of Bloomfield, 200 breast; Caleb Foung, 16, of Montclair, 200 breast and 200 IM; Kazuri Lateef, 13, of West Orange, 100 fly; Ryan LoCicero 13, of Nutley, 200 fly and 100 back; Cristian Remache, 15, of Nutley, 200 back; Maia Nilsen, 10, 200 IM; Omer Korkmaz, 12, 200 back; Ella Parker, 17, of Montclair, 100/200 fly; Vasilios Salatas, 14, of Montclair, 100 back/200 IM; Mizel McCeachin, 16, of Montclair, 100/200 free; Salma Benchekroum, 14, of Montclair, 200 back; and Nead Kojic, 14, of Montclair, 200 breast/100 back/200 IM.

Honorable mention to all those who dropped time in every event they swam — Cooper Voss, Caitlyn Tagliareni, Sasha Steele, Vasilis Salatas, David Pedo, Sarah Miller, Oona McNamara, Ella Kirkland, Caitlin Foung, Carly Fazendin, Tyler Davis and Lucas Foung.

The YMCA of Montclair Dolphins swim team offers a year-round opportunity for competitive swimming in both YMCA and USA Swimming competitions as well as seasonal instructional clinics for aspiring competitive athletes. The team is comprised of girls and boys from age 6 through high school. More than 200 athletes train with the team each year. They compete at all levels, based on their skill set.

For more information about the Montclair YMCA Dolphins swim team, contact head coach Paulo Madeira at or 973-744-3400.