Clarence continued its dominance, but it was the performance of Olean freshman Makayla Sargeant that sent the biggest waves of excitement through the pool at the Section VI Girls Swimming and Diving Championships on Friday at Erie Community College’s Flickinger Center Natatorium.
Sargeant won the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:04.94, breaking a Section VI record previously held by Frewsburg’s Anneli Johnson (1:05.40, 2003). She held off a hard charge from Niagara-Wheatfield senior Marissa Watroba, who also qualified for states along with Sydney Atendido (East Aurora) and Dorotka Tou (Clarence).
“This definitely makes me proud because now I know that all my hard work has paid off,” Sargeant said. “We’re a smaller school and a lot of people don’t really know us, so it’s important for Olean to be on top [of the podium].”
Sargeant, a state qualifier as an eighth-grader, also finished first in the 200 individual medley (2:05.61). She out-touched fellow state qualifiers Watroba and Victoria Butler (Clarence).
“Wow!” Olean coach Dan Brown said of Sargeant’s performance. “The things she has been able to accomplish at this age are just incredible. I thought that she had the capability, but to see it come to fruition is great. She’s everything that you want as a coach. I couldn’t be happier for her.”
Clarence took top honors in Class A after winning seven events, including all three relays. East Aurora won Class B.
The Red Devil quartet of Maddie Jacumski, Tou, Butler and Dina Rommel began the meet with a win in the 200 medley relay (1:48.98). East Aurora was second with a state-qualifying time of 1:51.97.
Rommel then teamed up with Rebecca Anthone, Sydney Modeas and Claire Willis to take the 200 free relay (1:38.48). Orchard Park, Olean and Williamsville North also qualified for states.
That same foursome finished the meet with a first-place finish in the 400 free relay (3:36.00). North was more than six seconds behind, but did qualify for states.
Modeas was also a double individual winner, beating the field in the 200 free (1:52.66) and 500 free (5:01.71). State-qualifying times were also turned in by Anthone (200), Willis (200 and 500), Andrea Ernst (Orchard Park, 200), Rebecca Winnert (Williamsville South, 200 and 500) and Julianna Sebastian (Williamsville North, 500).
Despite battling a knee injury, Rommel won the 100 free in 52.98, nipping state-bound swimmers Hannah Graesser (Frontier), Anthone and Kristen Romano (Lancaster). The 100 back went to Jacumski, who touched the wall in 58.40. She beat out fellow state qualifiers Jenna Rice (Kenmore West), Romano and Brenna Woodling (Williamsville East).
“We far exceeded our expectations,” said Clarence coach Joe Zwierzchowski, who also coaches the Williamsville North boys team and replaced Eric McClaren this fall. “I’ve coached a long time and this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Imagine taking over a Super Bowl champion. You’ve got to win a Super Bowl the next year if you have the same returning players. It’s been a gift, but all of us – coaches and swimmers – have worked so hard all year.
“And hopefully we’re not done by a long shot. I think our times put us in the game across the state.”
Graesser won the 50 free in 24.04, clipping fellow state qualifiers Rommel, Amanda Ernst (Orchard Park), Emily Simon (Olean) and Yvonne Isaacs (Pioneer).
OP freshman Andrea Ernst was tops in the 100 fly (58.50), followed by Butler, who also qualified for states.
Earlier in the day, Lockport’s Paige Kelkenberg defended her title and hit the state cut in diving, scoring 407.10 points.
This year’s state meet is scheduled for Nov. 16 and 17 at Ithaca College.