Eighty-nine elite athletes from Berkeley Aquatic Club—including Millington's Erin Barry and Claire O'Mara, of Gillette—competed at CeraVe Invitational Meet, one of the few long-course swimming events held in the United States during the winter.
Held at Rutgers University from Jan. 11 to 13, CeraVe is a meet with a long history, as Berkeley Aquatic Club has been hosting this meet for 22 years, with CeraVe serving as the sponsor for the past four.
CeraVe has become synonymous with fast times and one that for years has attracted Olympic swimmers, which in the past have included Scott Goldblatt, Michael Phelps, Cullen Jones, Rebecca Soni and Katie Hoff, while this year’s meet featured swims by Olympic medalists Katie Ledecky, Lia Neal and Ian Silverman. Moreover, swimmers and fans alike were able to meet Rebecca Soni on Friday night, as she graciously signed autographs on deck for over 3 hours on the first night of the meet.
Clubs came from as far as upstate New York, Maryland, Washington DC, Massachusetts, and California including North Baltimore Atlantic Swim Club and Germantown Academy. Of the 25 clubs that participated in the meet, Berkeley Aquatic finished sixth, with six Berkeley swimmers placing in the top three in their individual events: Gavin Formon, David Hua, Hailey Harkins, Claire O’Mara, Lindsey Rispoli and Lia Sartorio.
Erin Barry, of Millington, and Charlie Cole, of Bernardsville, were the high point scorers for Berkeley Aquatic, as points are earned through top-eight finishes. For the boys’ age ten and under group, Gavin Formon placed first in the 200 meter Freestyle, third in the 100 Freestyle, and third in the 200 meter Individual Medley. In the 13-14 age group, David Hua placed second in the 100 meter Freestyle. In the girls’ ten and under age group, Hailey Harkins placed third in the 50 Butterfly.
In the 11-12 age group, Lindsay Rispoli placed third in the 100 meter Breaststroke, and in the 13-14 age group, Claire O’Mara placed first in the 100 Freestyle and 50 Freestyle, while Lia Sartorio earned third in the 100 Breaststroke.
Perhaps the most poignant moment of the meet, which has become a tradition at CeraVe was the presentation of a check to the Fran Crippen Elevation Foundation, a charity set up by Crippen’s family in honor of the Open Water swimmer who passed away back in 2010.
Crippen was a decorated swimmer, who passed away at the age of 26, while swimming in an Open Water event in the United Arab Emirates. CeraVe was one of the many events, which Crippen competed at when he was younger, with his passing hitting a nerve with many of the past and present Berkeley Aquatic swimmers.
Since his death, Berkeley Aquatic has been collecting money to contribute to this charity, as the funds collected by this organization go toward helping athletes achieve their dreams, with the foundation committed to developing its resources through educational and participatory activities, which include swim clinics, athletic competitions and organized community events.