MAPLEWOOD, NJ – At Columbia High School, one of the sports with a rich tradition is swimming.
Cougar fans still talk about the great CHS swim teams of the mid 1950s. And swimmers like Dan Goble, David Pearl, Maggie Keenan and Rebecca Shore rank among the top athletes in the history of the Maplewood school.
These days, the CHS swimmer in the state spotlight is senior Marie Fagan, a youngster from South Orange. Fagan has had a superb career in the pool for CHS, but this winter, she’s particularly stood out.
At the Super Essex Conference/Essex County Championships on Jan. 15 at the Raritan Bay YMCA facility, Fagan led the CHS girls’ team to its first county title in 35 years. Fagan stole the show in the 500 free, capturing the title with a time of 5:09.16. Fagan also helped CHS to the 200 free relay crown, as well as the 400 free relay title.
For her efforts, Fagan is the initial 2018 Worrall Community Newspapers Athlete of the Month for January. Also considered were Seton Hall Prep basketball player Ashton Miller, Bloomfield basketball player Mike Ramos, Verona/Glen Ridge hockey player Anton Martino, and West Orange girls’ basketball player Mya Bembry.
“Marie is such a successful swimmer because she works so hard,” said Keenan, who is now the Columbia head coach. “All of the other kids on our team have tremendous admiration for her.”
Fagan, a top student, could be headed for Amherst College. Obviously Fagan is a superb athlete, but she stands out in other activities as well, like the school chorus and band.
Fagan, a very versatile swimmer, sets a good example for her younger brother, Evan, who is a member of the CHS boys’ swim team. The sophomore shows great promise in the 100 butterfly, according to Keenan, who sparkled for the Cougars in the late 1990s.
Columbia, which swims out of the pool at the Union Boys & Girls Club, faced some pressure heading into the big meet in mid-January, because the squad was undefeated in dual meet competition. But all the kids on the team came through with clutch efforts.
That group included people like Katharina Dowlin, Elly Ragone, Caroline Cerny, Raina Hackett, and Gabby Hayek. Dowlin had a first-place finish in the 100 free with a time of 54.86.
“I think that down the road we can do well in the states,” said Keenan, who was elected to the Columbia Sports Hall of Fame in 2011. “Marie will certainly be pointing toward that event.”
Fagan’s strong efforts on the anchor leg, led CHS to titles in the 200 and 400 free relays at the big Essex Conference meet.
COUGAR TALES – Seton Hall Prep, once again, earned the title on the boys’ side at the conference meet, led by Roo Fenton… SHP enjoyed a big month in January, as the West Orange parochial school also took top honors at the ECT wrestling championships at Codey… The pool at CHS is no longer in use… The Athlete of the Month selections were made by WCN sports staff in Essex County.
Marie Fagone talks to a reporter at the Essex County Championships are she helped the Columbia girls’ swim team capture the championship.