There are plenty of things Shawn Parkhurst has achieved in his four-year swimming career at Canisius College.
He has won individual titles and was the school’s Male Athlete of the Year. But there’s one thing he hasn’t achieved – winning a team title.
Parkhurst and the Golden Griffins will look to make a move to the top of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in men’s swimming and diving at the championship meet scheduled to run today through Saturday at the Flickinger Aquatic Center.
“Shawn raised the standards of the program and the group of five seniors have come together with a common goal to try and win a championship,” said Canisius coach Scott Vanderzell. “Shawn has been exceptional this year. He continues to race like a champion and give his team confidence. He’s a team a player and he knows that we’re striving for a championship.”
Parkhurst won the 1,000 freestyle MAAC title the last two years. Last year, his winning time of 9:12.43 was a conference record. As a sophomore he won the 200 butterfly.
This year he is entered in the 500, 1,000 and 1,650 free along with the 200 fly. He can only swim in three of those events and Vanderzell said they were still deciding which he would drop.
While positioning for individual titles is important, so, too, is that elusive team championship. Last year, Canisius finished second overall, its highest finish ever at the conference meet. And Parkhurst’s ability and work ethic have helped encourage and motivate his teammates.
“He has an impact in the pool because he challenges others around him to do better,” Vanderzell said. “He pushes everyone out of their comfort zone to make them better. Outside of the pool, he’s always looking how he can help the team in different ways, how everyone can be better. As he gets toward the end of his swimming career, the one thing he doesn’t have is a team championship.”
Look for key performances from freshman Spencer Bray (Orchard Park), sophomore Sam Hansen and senior Tyler Carver (Canisius).
On the women’s side, Canisius finished fifth last year. While Marist has had a hold on the top spot, winning eight of the last nine titles, the Griffs believe added depth will help them charge into the top three. Look for key performances from freshmen Alex Doody (Sacred Heart) and Clare Battaglia (Williamsville North), sophomore Marissa Oakey (Niagara-Wheatfield) and junior Anna Schena.
Niagara comes into the championship meet having set 10 school records this year – six individual and four relays.
Senior Aubrey Kettrick leads the Purple Eagles. She has set records in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle events and the 100 butterfly and was part of the record-setting 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams.
Senior Julia Bulmahn (Clarence) set the record in the 200 back while sophomore Cary Roycroft broke the mark in the 100 breaststroke while being part of the 200 and 400 medley relay teams.
Meanwhile, the University at Buffalo will host the women’s Mid-American Conference championships Feb. 28–March 2 at Alumni Arena. The Bulls finished fourth out of eight teams last year, their best finish in the conference meet.
“I’ve been very pleased with our team on the women’s side and how they’ve come together this year,” UB coach Andy Bashor said. “We’ve had leadership from our captains and our seniors and we’ve definitely gone through our share of adversity in terms of injuries and sickness and we’ve been still been able to be very consistent throughout the year.”
The men’s championship meet will be March 7-9 in Carbondale, Ill., and the Bulls are looking to regain the MAC title. They won it in 2011, in the same pool as this year’s meet. That bit of trivia brings good memories and confidence to a deep Buffalo team.
“We’ve got nine seniors on this team,” Bashor said. “It’s an older, more veteran team and we’re just excited to be going back to the pool where we last won the MAC Championship. We’ve got a lot of great images of that place and we will use that to our advantage. These guys have been working really hard throughout the year. In our sport, we train all year for this moment. ”
Swimmers to watch on the UB women’s side include senior Brittney Kuras, who was the MAC’s Most Outstanding Swimmer at least year’s championship meet after winning the 200 IM, 200 free and 100 free. Senior Mallory Morrell was a first-team All-MAC honoree after winning the 50 free while sophomore Jessica Powers could make an impact in her first MAC championships.
The men’s team is anchored by a solid group of seniors. East Aurora native Matt Schwippert was part of three winning relay teams last year and finished second in the 100 and 100 backstroke. Cory Zorsch was part of two relay wins and finished third in the 100 fly.
Matt Hogan was part of four winning relay teams while winning the 100 free and taking second in the 100 free and 200 IM. Josh Meints was part of three winning relays while winning the 100 breaststroke.
For St. Bonaventure, the Atlantic 10 Championships this year have moved to the Spire Institute in Geneva, Ohio, and will take place from Feb. 20-23.
The Bona men’s team finished second last year – the sixth straight year the Bonnies have taken the No. 2 spot.
St. Bonaventure returns sophomore Vatslav Lets who was the A-10’s Most Outstanding Rookie at last year’s championships. He won the 500 free, was second in the 200 free and third in the 200 back.
Senior Mike Murphy was the Most Outstanding Diver after winning both 1-meter and 3-meter events.
The women’s team finished in seventh place last year. Swimmers to watch include freshmen Elizabeth Malone and Shannon Hamberman, sophomores Lauren Caldwell (Jamestown) and Rachel Bull and junior Jeanette Dietrich.