After the morning preliminaries, senior Shawn Parkhurst walked in the back hallway of the Flickinger Center holding half a turkey sub.
He’s been through this routine before. There are many things out of his control at the championship meet, but his nutrition is very much in his control and something he’s honed over his swimming career at Canisius.
Attention to detail is one of the reasons Parkhurst has become one of the all-time best swimmers in Golden Griffin history. And one of the reasons he has excelled at the Metro Atlantic Athletic Swimming and Diving Championships.
The senior from Scriba, Oswego County, won his third straight MAAC title in the 1,000-yard freestyle on Friday and followed that up with an emphatic title in the 200 butterfly on Saturday. Parkhurst found another gear in the final 50 yards, giving him a time of 1:48:16 – a new MAAC and school record.
That gives Parkhurst five individual MAAC titles in his Canisius career.
Saturday he added a second-place finish in the 1,650 free for good measure, helping set the tone for the Golden Griffins’ men’s squad, which finished third at the MAAC Championships. Rider took the overall men’s title followed by Marist. Niagara placed 10th in the 10-team field.
On the women’s side, Canisius took fourth place – its highest finish ever – as Marist won the team title. Rider was second followed by Loyola with Niagara placing ninth in the 10-team field.
“It’s a long three-day process,” Parkhurst said. “It seems like it’s over in a snap, but it’s a lot of racing and lot of strain on the body.
“Staying hydrated and eating well throughout the event and through the taper process, the week leading up to it, is really important. I started to work on that a little bit and made it a better process so I’m able to last all three days a little better than before.”
He’s been willing to share his process with his teammates and as Parkhurst has grown, so too has the Canisius program on both the men’s and women’s side.
Perhaps the best display of that came in the 1,000 final on Friday night. Parkhurst took first place in 9:19.62 as the Griffs swept the first five places along with senior Robby Novak (Williamsville North) taking ninth place.
Freshman Spencer Bray (Orchard Park) came in second followed by sophomores Sam Hansen, Sean Wurster and junior Corey Petrie (Lockport).
“When I first came it was me and Robby swimming distance,” Parkhurst said. “Then we added in Corey Petrie. Now we’ve got Spencer and Sean. It’s a close group of guys and we push each other in practice every day.”
The underclassmen have “really displayed themselves in a great manner at the meet. They’ve stepped up where they’ve needed to step up and earned valuable points for the team and we work for a championship. They’re working hard.”
While Parkhurst helped set the tone for the emergence of the Canisius swimming program, the freshmen have compiled an outstanding season and turned in some impressive performances at the MAAC meet.
Case in point on the women’s side, freshmen Clare Battaglia (Williamsville North) and Alex Doody (Sacred Heart). Battaglia set school records in the 100 backstroke, 200 backstroke and 200 individual medley at the MAAC meet. Doody set school marks in the 200 breaststroke and 400 IM.
Battaglia took second place in the 100 back, third in the 200 back and fourth in the 200 IM. Coming into the championship meet, she had won 17 of the 23 individual races she entered in the regular season. But her approach to this weekend was to take it all in and feed off her teammates.
“I tried not to have expectations coming in,” Battaglia said. “It’s my first year and I wanted to just get used to things but I’m learning a lot. With the help of my team, it’s making it fun and easier to get used to.
“I’m really happy with it. This year for me was all about getting used to things. I’m happy with it. Happy with my team. So an overall success.”
“She seems to be progressing every time she swims,” Canisius coach Scott Vanderzell said. “She’s a very talented athlete and very confident person. It’s about getting comfortable and gaining more and more confidence. Being a freshman, first time at the meet, I think it’s about getting a feel for it a little bit.”
While the freshmen are getting a feel for the meet, they’re also knocking out some amazing times. On the women’s side, seven individual Canisius school records were set at the championship meet – five of them by freshmen – along with four relay records On the men’s side, six individual records were set, two of them by Bray (500 free, 200 back), along with one relay.
For Niagara, senior Aubrey Kettrick brought an individual title to Monteagle Ridge, winning the 200 freestyle on Friday while setting a Niagara school record with a time of 1:51.29. She finished third in the 100 free on Saturday.
The MAAC award winners were: Women’s Most Outstanding Swimmers: Kate Conard (Marist) and Kelly O’Connor (Rider); Men’s Most Outstanding Swimmer: Lorro Bilonic (Saint Peter’s); Women’s Most Outstanding Diver: Chelai Eliazar (Marist); Men’s Most Outstanding Diver: Trevor Hiller (Rider); Diving Coach of the Year: Melanie Bolstad (Marist); Women’s Coach of the Year: Larry VanWagner (Marist); Men’s Coach of the Year: Mohamed Abdelaal (Saint Peter’s).