OCEAN CITY — In any other year, a team beating its rival for the first time in nearly three decades would be cause for a pretty big celebration on the deck. But after the Ocean City boys knocked off Mainland, 112-57, on Tuesday afternoon, all parties involved were simply thankful that the 2021 season had begun.

In true COVID-19 fashion, the season began in a rough way for the visiting Mustangs, who were missing their top four club swimmers because of COVID, and that took a little bit away from the Red Raiders’ win. Most of Mainland’s opening-day lineup came in with little to no varsity swimming experience.

“Like I told the guys today, we found out 20 minutes before the meet that Mainland was missing some key guys. I told my kids that this could happen to us tomorrow, so we have to go into every meet like it’s our last meet,” said Ocean City coach Shane McGrath. “I didn’t want to risk not seeing what people could do because we already had a lineup set. We changed a couple things around, but every day you have to be ready for anything. A lot of stuff is out of your control.”

Ocean City took first place in all but two events, as Mainland’s James Bradley won the 100 backstroke with a time of 1:06.40 and Matt Giannantonio scored the top spot in the 100 breaststroke at 1:18.05.

“It’s definitely hard getting back to practice and getting back into shape, but I’m glad we get to do something, at least, and get out here and swim,” Bradley said. “At least we’re getting something, and something is better than nothing. We’ll take what we can get, we just want to have fun out there and see what we can do. We expect to go out and swim our hardest every meet. There are some things, like today, that you just can’t control, but it doesn’t matter what happens, when we get out there we swim hard and try to get great times.

“It’s great to be back out here doing what we love. You have to have fun.”

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One guy who certainly had some fun was Ocean City senior Steve Gooden, who clocked in at 54.12 in the 100 freestyle to break his own school record. He also anchored the winning 200 medley relay team as well as the winning 400 freestyle relay team.

“It’s definitely been a weird year and season so far with COVID, but I think the team has really faced that adversity and swam well. We’re doing every other day in the pool and the other days are dry land workouts and cardio. I swim club six days a week, so I think I’m pretty close (to where I normally am) and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season,” said Gooden, who helped lead the Red Raiders into the sectional championship meet a year ago. “I’m very thankful that I have my senior season. I didn’t know if that would happen two months ago, so I’m just really excited.”

The Red Raiders also got some winning performances from Matthew Woodside (200, 500 free; 200 free relay, 400 free relay), Dolan Grisbaum (200 IM, 200 medley relay, 400 free relay) and Pat Armstrong (50 free, 100 butterfly, 200 medley relay).

“At the beginning of the season I think a lot of high school coaches were concerned that some of the club kids might be taken away from the high school season, but I didn’t find that at all from our guys. Our club guys are excited — I think they get a taste of these meets, which are a lot different than those eight-hour club meets on the weekends. It’s a little more fun and a little more team-oriented,” said coach McGrath. “We want to have fun, we want to break some school records — there’s no playoffs or anything like that. We were really looking forward to this. The last time we beat them on the boys side was 1993 and we’ve been talking about this since last year. So today, we’re going to enjoy it. We won the meet, but I told my guys that we’re going to see them again this year with a full squad and we want to try to beat them twice.”

Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays

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