Seniors may come and go, but the tradition never graduates at Lockport.
With the Section VI Girls Swimming and Diving Championships this weekend, the Lady Lions look to add another chapter to what is already one of Western New York's top swimming stories.
Despite graduating 16 seniors the past two years, Lockport looks to qualify its three relays and take home a couple of individual patches at this year's sectionals, scheduled for Thursday-Saturday at the Erie Community College Burt Flickinger Aquatic Center.
The sectionals are also a qualifier for the New York State Championships on Nov. 19-20 at the Nassau County Aquatic Center on Long Island.
Over the weekend, Lockport won the Niagara Frontier League meet for the seventh year in a row. It has won the regular season NFL title the last four years, going 43-1 in dual meets.
It's a tradition that holds water in part because of a big-sister, little-sister program that builds relationships among swimmers in and out of the water. Each season a junior varsity swimmer is paired with a varsity swimmer, who helps make the transition to varsity easier.
"It kind of teaches them to be prepared and to see what's coming ahead, and know what will be expected of them," said junior Ashley Schaffert. "Instead of always asking a coach questions, they can ask their big sister. I had a big sister two years ago, and I still talk to her. Relationships build from it."
Schaffert tied the NFL record in the 100-yard breaststroke Saturday (1:07.64, shared with Allison Carr of Niagara-Wheatfield). She's the No. 1 seed for sectionals in the 100 breast and will also swim the 200 individual medley and two relays. Freshman Emily Scott will swim the 50 free and three relays and senior Kaitlin Lyons is entered in the 100 free and three relays.
"We really have only one senior (Lyons) so this team has exceeded our expectations by far," said coach Ron Zugelder, now in his eighth season, "and they still have a lot of growing to do. We haven't shown our best and that's the really exciting part."
The Niagara Frontier League will also be represented by Kenmore West, winners of seven first places at the league meet.
The Blue Devils boast one of Western New York's top young swimmers in sophomore Alex Dockstader, a two-time MVP of the NFL meet.
"I've never not seen her give 100 percent," West coach Carrie Werth said of Dockstader. "She can basically swim any event she's so versatile."
Dockstader is the No. 1 sectional seed in the 200 IM (2:09.67), the 100 free (53.66) and the 400 free relay with teammates Marissa Dressel, Lindsay Dressel and Sarah Finch. Jennifer Burgess is another Blue Devil swimmer seeded No. 1 in an event, the 500 free (5:19.59).
Quakers set the pace
Another school immersed in swimming tradition is Orchard Park. The Quakers have junior Andrea Lehner, who is the Section VI record holder in four events: 50 free (23.73), 100 free (51.57), 500 free (4:52.43) and 100 backstroke (58.01). At sectionals she'll swim the back, where she's the No. 1 seed, and the three relays.
Lehner set the backstroke record this year in a dual meet with Williamsville North. The previous record of 58.32 was held since 1992 by current Lancaster coach Carol (Gervin) King.
Lehner is nursing a sore back, but it doesn't appear she's missed a stroke this season. "She can't train as hard, so she's chosen more to focus on her technique and her times are dropping," said coach Art Aungst.
Sophomore Hannah Whistler will swim the 100 fly (No. 2 seed) and the relays while junior Megan Smith will do the 200 IM (No. 3 seed) plus the relays.
Lehner, Whistler and Smith return from the Quakers' 200 medley relay that broke the NYS record at last year's state meet, going 1:48.15.
Freshman Casey Matthews of Williamsville North scored 303.45 points in the dual meet against Orchard Park this season, not far off the Section VI six-dive record of 306.65.
Matthews has plenty of momentum going into sectionals after winning the ECICs and going undefeated during the regular season.
At sectionals she's going to introduce a front 2 1/2 tuck. "I will definitely use it at sectionals, but I might change the tuck to pike for the state meet. I've been working on it in practice," she said.
Adrienne Bryerton and Mary Ungerer, two seniors from Southwestern are seeded behind Mathews. Another freshman to watch is No. 5 seed Sarah Masters of Amherst.
Around the pools
Five defending sectional champs return including double winners Dockstader (200 IM, 100 back) and junior Sammy Palma of Lancaster (50 free, 100 fly), Lehner (500 free), senior Christine Martinez of Clarence (200 free) and sophomore Jennifer Anthone of Williamsville East (100 free). . . . Anthone teamed with junior Nikki Cardinale, freshman Tori Mayer and freshman Janelle Munroe to take a relay from Orchard Park at the ECICs, winning the 400 free in 3:47.41. . . . Three-time state meet participant, Tracy Rathke of Williamsville North, is the No. 2 seed behind Lehner in the back. . . . Senior Allison Whalen of West Seneca West looks to break 1 minute in the 100 fly after winning the race at ECICs in 1:00.04. . . . East Aurora's 200 medley and 200 free relays are both seeded among the top five. Swimming on those relays will be super-seniors Jamie McGowan, Kelly Dudek, Adrienne Kina and Chrissy Marchetta. "They're all seniors and they're just looking to go really fast and go out with a bang," said coach Cheryl Carpenter. . . . The swimmer to beat in the 200 free is Frontier junior Ashlee Calandra, the No. 1 seed at 1:58.44. . . . The ECIC has a two-week break between its league meet and the sectionals while the NFL and CCAA have one. Orchard Park's Aungst said he likes the extra week between major competitions because it doesn't force his swimmers to have to go fast three weeks in a row, and it allows him more one-on-one coaching time with his swimmers who qualified for sectionals.
Nardin, led by senior Erin Hanley, is the clear favorite to win its sixth consecutive All-Catholic Championship on Wednesday at the Flickinger Center. Seven teams will compete for the title at 6 p.m.
The Gators set four All-Catholic records on their way to last year's title.
Five defending champions return: Hanley (200 IM, 100 breast), Hilary White of Holy Angels (200, 500 free), Natalie Lewis of Nardin (50, 100 free), Emily Ciraolo of Holy Angels (100 fly) and Ashley Olson of Buffalo Seminary (100 back).
Nardin's 200 medley and 400 free relays are both ranked among the top five in Western New York. The 400 relay of Jordan Deren, Julie Gielowski, Sarah Sciarrino and Lewis set the regular season record at 3:47.9.
White's had an impressive season so far. She's currently ranked among the WNY top 10 in six events, including the 50 free and 500 free where she's second in both.
Nardin wrapped up its regular season 12-0.
Section VI Championships
Where: Erie Community College's Burt Flickinger Aquatic Center
When: Thursday -- Swimming preliminaries, 5 p.m.; Friday -- Diving first round (eight dives), 5 p.m.; Saturday -- All finals, 11 a.m.
Where: ECC's Flickinger Center
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday