ITHACA — The Clarence seniors who wanted to finish their high school careers in a big way got their wish at Saturday’s New York State Girls Swimming and Diving Championships at Ithaca College.
Undaunted by a stunning disqualification in the meet’s first event, the Red Devils went on to break one state record and three Section VI records. Clarence set section marks in the 50 free, 500 free and 400 free relay, helping them win the state team title for the second year in a row.
The Red Devils’ 200 medley relay was looking to defend its state title. They swam a time that would have done that while breaking the state record, but immediately following the race, officials huddled and concluded that a Clarence swimmer left her block early, resulting in a DQ. Those same officials called Clarence coach Joe Zwierzchowski to the end of the pool and broke the news.
“It’s the lowest low you can imagine,” he said. “We wanted that really, really, really bad. Some teams would have given up, but the girls got together said, ‘it’s over, we’ve got a meet to win.’ It was amazing the way it turned out.”
After the DQ, Rebecca Anthone got the Red Devils back on track, placing second in the 200 freestyle in 1:51.37. Another second place for Clarence came in the 200 free relay in 1:37.34.
Section VI took first-place medals in five of the 11 swimming events. Senior Dina Rommel of Clarence was a double winner and was named the meet’s Most Outstanding Swimmer. She won the 50 freestyle in a Section VI record and Automatic All American time of 23.13. She also won the 100 butterfly in 55.77. She will compete next year at the University of Virginia.
Rommel’s win in the 50 was electrifying. Not only was it her third state title in a row in that event, she beat her rival Katie Smith of Pittsford by .11.
A pair of sophomores also won state titles. Sophomore Makayla Sargent of Olean won the 200 individual medley in an AAA time of 2:02.80. Sargent had another big swim in the 100 butterfly, placing third in 56.06.
Orchard Park sophomore Andrea Ernst won the 100 freestyle in 50.88. It was an especially fast field with six swimmers finishing in under 52 seconds.
The Clarence 400 freestyle relay of seniors Rommel, Anthone, Victoria Butler and Sydney Modeas broke the New York State and Section VI records in an AAA 3:26.98. The previous state record belonged to Clarence after it went 3:28.72 last year.
“For those four seniors to set the state record in their last race together, it was breathtaking. They are what Clarence swimming has been all about for five years,” their coach said.
Junior Morgan Wellenzohn of Orchard Park, the only diver from Section VI to qualify for states, finished in third place with 439.45 points. The state champion, Addison Walkowiak of Ballston Spa, scored 494.30 points.
Even with the loss of 48 points in the meet-opening 200 medley relay, Clarence finished with 240 points to take the state team title over runner-up Pittsford, which finished with 222. Orchard Park placed fifth with 132.
Orchard Park enjoyed a pair of top five places in the 200 and 400 free relays. The foursome of Amanda Ernst, Olivia Sapio, Katrina Wardner and Andrea Ernst went 1:38.27 in the 200 and the same girls went 3:36.03 in the 400.
Lancaster freshman Kristen Romano had a strong meet. She was state runner-up in the 100 backstroke in 56.81 and fifth in the 200 individual medley in 2:05.80.
For the third year in a row, Section VI finished in second place scoring 565 points. Section V won the title with 611.
• Swimmers from Sacred Heart and Mount St. Mary of the Monsignor Martin Association participated in the Federation portion of the meet. The best finish was sophomore Alexis Fredricks of Mount St. Mary, who placed eighth in the 100 backstroke in 58.30.