WEBSTER — One of the most accomplished swimmers in Western New York history capped off his brilliant high school career like everyone expected him to – standing atop the podium.
Canisius senior Jack Boyd won the boys 200-yard freestyle for his fifth career state title, and finished second in the 500 freestyle to highlight the Section VI performers at the New York State Federation Swimming and Diving Championships at the Webster Aquatic Center on Saturday.
Boyd, who will attend Harvard in the fall, won the 200 in 1 minute, 39.41 seconds, almost two seconds faster than Pittsford’s PJ Ransford (1:41.35). He had the race in hand from the time the two dove in the water.
Boyd was ranked first after Friday’s preliminaries.
“I did have a good feeling, going in with my best time compared to everyone else’s best time, but you can never sit on that,” Boyd said. “There were a lot of great swimmers in this race – everyone is a great swimmer if they’re swimming here.”
Ransford is one of those great swimmers Boyd was talking about. The Pittsford senior, who will attend Michigan next year, out-dueled Boyd in a highly competitive 500-yard freestyle that saw Ransford turn it into high gear with a few laps left to take the lead and hold off Boyd.
After the race, with the crowd still abuzz, the state meet announcer proclaimed the race was “possibly the best 500-free in New York State history,” as Ransford (4:21.06) and Boyd (4:22.72) crushed the previous state record of 4:24.06.
“It was a killer race – one of the best races I’ve ever been in,” Boyd said. “PJ just hit it into high gear earlier than I did. He got the jump on me and beat me because of it.”
Boyd’s teammate, Luke Otto, ended his career on a strong note as well, finishing fifth in the 200-yard IM and fourth in the 100-yard breaststroke.
Otto’s 56.66 time in the breaststroke was a personal best, a Catholic meet best, and worthy of automatic All-American status. Boyd called Otto the “hardest working” swimmer on the team.
“It’s good that all the work paid off over the last year,” said Otto, who with Boyd, junior Allan Collins and Andrew Wojtowicz took sixth in the 200-yard freestyle relay and sixth in the 400-yard freestyle relay. “It’s a great way to go out in the last high school swims.”
Section VI also represented the 50 free well, littering the podium with three top-eight finishers. Williamsville North’s Connor Mergler finished fourth (21.07), Frewsburg/Southwestern’s Jordan Powers took fifth (21.30) and Jamestown’s Matthew Marsh took seventh in the federation race (21.40).
Mergler broke Will North’s 50-meter time Friday, and then bested it Saturday in the final. Mergler’s time was also good enough for All-America consideration.
“I love my result – great way to end my senior year,” Mergler said.
This year’s crop of seniors is one of the most talented groups New York has seen in a long time. Like Boyd, other swimmers will be moving on to swim at top-flight colleges like Duke, Notre Dame, North Carolina State and Indiana.
The meet’s Most Outstanding Competitor, Hauppauge’s Justin Plaschka from Section XI in Long Island, is swimming at Notre Dame next year.
“It’s great to swim against them and it’s great to swim with them,” Boyd said. “The person who is the head of the ‘ready room,’ where you get prepared to walk out to your race, was asking all the seniors where they are going to college and you hear the Michigans and Notre Dames, and these are big-ticket schools. It’s exciting to swim against people like that.”
And next year, Boyd will get to do it again at Harvard.