ITHACA – When Joe Zwierzchowski took over the girls swim program at Clarence, a day like his team had Saturday was just what he had envisioned.
“It was,” Zwierzchowski said. “I inherited a great team, there’s no doubt about it, and with that came a lot of responsibility, a lot of pressure, and I loved every minute of it. I let the pressure work for me, in a really positive way. It can consume you, or you can feed off of it and run with it.”
The pressure of lofty expectations produced a gem of a performance from his Red Devils squad, which swept the three relays – the 200-yard medley, the 200 freestyle and the 400 free – and had an individual champion in junior Dina Rommel, who won the 50 freestyle.
“It was a dream come true,” Zwierzchowski said. “States was our focus; We wanted all the hard work to come together here, on the biggest stage, and the girls performed remarkably well.”
The meet was held in the new Aquatics Pavilion at Ithaca College, the first time Section IV has hosted the championships.
The Clarence foursome of sophomores Maddie Jacumski and Dorotka Tou, and juniors Victoria Butler and Rommel set a Section VI record in taking the 200 medley relay in a time of 1 minute, 47.20 seconds, which met the standard for All-America Consideration. Clarence defeated Section IX’s Monroe-Woodbury by more than a second (1:48.23).
The Red Devils’ last two relays both eclipsed state records. The 200 free relay foursome of junior Rebecca Anthone, Butler, senior Claire Willis and Rommel touched up in an All-America Automatic (AAA) time of 1:35.75, breaking the previous record of 1:36.19, set exactly five years earlier by Ithaca High.
And the Red Devils’ 400 free relay team of Rommel, Anthone, Willis and junior Sydney Modeas swam a 3:28.72, also meeting the AAA standard and edging by .12 seconds the state record set by Niskayuna in 2011.
“It’s a remarkable accomplishment,” said Zwierzchowski, who took the team over this season after former coach Eric McClaren stepped down for personal reasons. “I’ve been around swimming a long time, and the performance they turned in was unlike any I’ve seen any team turn in in any sport.”
Rommel successfully defended her title in the 50 free, winning in an AAA standard time of 23.32 seconds, just .06 seconds off the state record set 21 years ago by Richelle Depold of Scotia (Section II). Just six weeks ago, she suffered a dislocated knee cap while playing soccer in gym class.
She was out of the pool for three weeks, then could only use her arms once she did return. On Saturday, she showed no ill effects, beating Katie Smith of Pittsford (Section V) by .05 seconds.
“My start was amazing, the best I’ve ever had,” she said. “I felt really good coming up on my first stroke, and I missed the wall on the turn so I knew I had to catch back up. I took my first breath going back and looked up and saw the other girl [Smith] was ahead of me, and so that really pushed me to pick it up. It’s all about the finish.”
Other Section VI highlights :
• Clarence’s Modeas was runner-up in the 500 free, one spot better than her 2011 finish, in an AAC and personal-best time of 4:53.38.
• Freshman Makayla Sargent of Olean finished a strong second in the 200 IM, in 2:04.40 (AAC), and sixth in the 100 breaststroke (1:06.38).
• Hannah Graesser of Frontier took seventh in the 50 free (24.48).
• Freshman Andrea Ernst of Orchard Park was fifth in the 100 butterfly (57.80); and Clarence’s Anthone was sixth in the 100 free (52.61).