Swimming the backstroke, Justina Langone pulled Latin Academy out to a strong lead in the first event - the 200-meter medley relay - and the Dragons never looked back, winning the relay and the Boston City Championships yesterday at Madison Park High School.
The win gave Latin Academy its 17th city title in 18 seasons in coed swimming, and the start of a new streak after the team forfeited the 2007 trophy when then-freshman Langone was ruled ineligible for participating in two sports in one season (swimming and ice hockey), a violation of MIAA rules.
So should this year's trophy count as number 18?
"This is 17, [that's] one in a row," Latin Academy coach Mark Thomas said. "We don't count what's not ours."
Latin Academy can count this one, thanks to strong showings by Langone - second-place finishes in the 100-meter freestyle and the 100 backstroke - Rachel McGrath, who finished first in the 200 individual medley and second in the 100 butterfly, and Olivia O'Toole, who won the 200 and 500 freestyles.
The Dragons placed swimmers in the top six in every event, taking first in five individual events and the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays to finish with 127 points, comfortably ahead of O'Bryant (77) and East Boston (65).
The Tigers claimed second thanks in large part to Talal Jaber's wins in the 100 butterfly (1:04.41) - just ahead of McGrath - and the 100 backstroke (1:07.28) - just ahead of Langone.
McGrath, who has been swimming for Latin Academy since seventh grade, credited Thomas with coaching the Dragons to the top.
"[Thomas] holds a good practice," McGrath said.
Thomas pointed to a couple of factors for the team's success. The presence of volunteer assistant coach Richard Mojica allows the staff to spend more time with each swimmer, and the school has six grades (seventh through 12th) to pick through. The team grew to more than 50 members this season from 25 in 2006-07.
"The junior class is huge," said Thomas, noting that the Dragons have at least "15 or 20" juniors this season.
As for the disappointing end to last season, Thomas said he addressed the rules violation at the first day of practice and didn't think it carried over to this season.
When asked if Langone might have used the experience as extra motivation, Thomas said: "I think she's motivated all the time. She's a strong kid, strong and determined."