The 200-yard freestyle had just finished at Nassau Aquatic Center and two-time defending champ Great Neck South found itself in an unfamiliar spot: trailing.
Sure, it was only the second event, but this was uncharted water for the Rebels.
After a third undefeated regular season and third league championship, Great Neck South had been disqualified at Friday night's time trials for staying under water too long during the 200 medley relay, the first event. The Rebels posted the top time in the relay during the regular season.
Essentially starting from scratch at the second event, even after the 200 freestyle, they still trailed by double digits.
"I'm not gonna lie, we left here Friday night in a little bit of a fog worrying about what was going to happen," coach Andy Berlin said. "But the boys really stepped up. We got on the bus today and said, 'let's swim like champions.' And that's what they did today."
Despite spotting the rest of the county a sizable lead, Great Neck South overcame an early 48-point deficit to emerge victorious Saturday, scoring 421 points to win its third consecutive Nassau championship. Bellmore-Merrick took second with 358 points and Jericho finished third with 337.50.
"Friday night, we got DQ'd, and today, anything could've happened," said junior Sam Mo, who was named outstanding competitor. "I was anxious and nervous all day. But we knew what we were doing."
Mo certainly did, taking first in the 200 individual medley (1:53.10) and 100 butterfly (50.69), to help Great Neck South build a fragile two-point lead over Bellmore-Merrick after the seventh event.
"Sam has been a huge motivating factor for everybody," Berlin said. "He's a sparkplug. Someone who's there for everyone; he cares about everyone on the team. And sometimes kids that are that good aren't."
What happened next sealed the meet: Sean Kim, seeded fifth in the 500 freestyle, took second (5:02.38), upping the Rebels' lead to 49 points.
That led to a head-to-head showdown in the 200 freestyle relay, with Bellmore-Merrick seeded first, but by just 0.69 seconds. The two teams were neck and neck until the last leg, when Mo's blazing speed gave GNS the win (1:28.97), nearly two seconds ahead of Bellmore-Merrick. After that, the Rebels' depth took over to complete the threepeat.
"We were pointing to the 200 free relay all day," Berlin said. "And we knew that would be something that would not only be big pointswise, but big for us emotionally."
Let's play two: Aside from Mo, the other double winners were Cold Spring Harbor's Erik Heinemann, who won the 200 freestyle (1:45.60) and 500 freestyle (4:43.33), and Bellmore-Merricks' Austin Kowalsky, who took first in the 100 freestyle (47.42) and 100 backstroke (54.12).