Rommel rocks for Clarence
No wonder Charlie Rommel is such a good swimmer. He's as focused as they come.
In the pool, he's the only returning member of Clarence's defending New York State championship 200 freestyle relay. Out of the pool, he recently signed a national letter of intent to swim at the University of Maryland. He talked about life after swimming and the opportunity to pursue internships in nearby Washington, which he described as "the most powerful city in the world."
Rommel may be ready for life's challenges, but his immediate future is all about what he can do for the Red Devils.
Rommel likely will prove he's the area's best sprinter by winning the 50 freestyle in the Section VI championships. He's got the fastest time in the section to date at 21.61. Among his goals this year is to break the sectional record in the 50 held by 2010 graduate Phil Aronica of Orchard Park, who went a blazing 20.85 while winning the state title.
"It's a priority. Phil had always been my No. 1 competition," said Rommel. "The 50 has always been the event that brings you to the front of the high school swimming community in Western New York. That's kind of what people know me by."
Rommel has also proven himself on the national stage representing the Clarence Swim Club. With no shave or taper, he went 21.16 in the 50 to place 26th in the country at the Dec. 9-11 USA Short Course Junior National Championships at Georgia Tech.
He had a career-best 52.47 in the 100 meter freestyle at the Aug. 8-13 USA Long Course Junior National Championships in Irvine, Calif.
Rommel signed a partial athletic and academic scholarship with the Terrapins in November. He also weighed offers from Alabama and Missouri.
"What was critical to me was the academics," said Rommel. "I realize swimming is a large portion of my life, but I will have a life after swimming, and wanted a school that will carry me. When I mention my school I want people will know me as a scholar as well as an athlete. Being right next to D.C., I'm hoping there will be job opportunities right off the bat. It's baffling."
Sectionals changes meet format
Section VI is taking a new approach to determine its fastest swimmers. It begins with the Class Championship, which will crown individual winners in Classes A, B and C on Feb. 11-12 at Maryvale. The top 24 from that meet, regardless of class, advance to the Section VI Championships at Clarence on Feb. 18-19.
"It really will be a meet of the best-of-the-best," said Section VI Chairman Al Fritzinger. "This was something the coaches had tossed around the last couple years. This is our trial year. We'll reevaluate it after this year and see how everyone feels about it."
State meet experience returns
Anyone at last year's state meet at ECC witnessed history. Clarence didn't just win the 200 free relay, it broke the state record in 1:24.54, good for 14th in the nation. Rommel returns from that relay.
The Red Devils return two relay swimmers from states: junior Ryan Saenger swam on the 400 free relay while senior Matt Kovacs was on the 200 medley relay and competed in the breaststroke.
Orchard Park's relays at states were also impressive. The Quakers finished second to Clarence in the 200 free and have junior Andrew Duszynski returning. OP's 200 medley relay, third last year in a Section VI record 1:34.71, returns senior Mike Sutz.
Another OP junior, Spencer Bray, swam the 200 at states. The Quakers also have a promising diver in Pat Ring, fourth at ECICs last year. OP has been without Declan McLaughlin, who gave up his sophomore year to swim for his club team.
Williamsville North returns Berus
The only returning Section VI champion in an individual event is junior Matt Berus of Williamsville North, who won the 500 free.
"He's got his timing down, his knowledge of the stroke is down and he's much smarter when it comes to the mental preparation," said North coach Dan McLaughlin.
North is still basking in the glow of its 56-46 win over Clarence last week, which came down to the 400 freestyle relay. It was the Spartans' first win over the Red Devils in five years. McLaughlin is sure of the time frame because his grandson, Jack, was born the night of the last victory, and he just turned five years old, born Jan. 9, 2006.
Cleve Hill pool dedication today
Cleveland Hill will dedicate its pool the Donald L. Puff Natatorium during today's 4:30 meet against Maryvale. Puff had a 206-68-1 record as the Eagles' coach for 21 years (1954-75). His record included 10 ECIC IV championships, seven consecutive starting in 1968-1969. The ceremony is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
City Honors finally has a home. After years of moving between School 89, Southside Elementary, Traditional, Waterfront and BVTC, the Centaurs opened a new pool this season. The facility was part of a $40 million renovation project of the historic school. The eight-lane pool has seating for 450 spectators. "This facility not only showcases City Honors, but the Buffalo Public Schools," said coach Margaret Cardina.
The Centaurs have built quite a tradition in the city's co-ed Syracuse Cup. They have been undefeated for the last 11 seasons, a span of 115 meets. Senior Fran Cunningham is among the top male swimmers. He's undefeated in the 200 free and 200 IM. A female swimmer with a bright future is seventh grader Alize Allen, who excels in the butterfly.
Nice turnaround for Kenmore East
Kenmore East's program has shown significant growth the past three years under coach Nate Bourke. When he took over in 2007, the team had nine boys and had not won a meet in approximately seven years.
Since then, the roster has grown to over 35, including varsity, JV and diving. The team record is currently 6-2 in the Niagara Frontier League. Senior Matthew Butler is undefeated so far in the 100 breaststroke. Senior Nick Sereday is unbeaten in the 50, 100 and 200. Senior Matt McLaughlin has qualified for sectionals in six events. Junior Liam Jones is strong in the relays. Senior Collin deGuehery is a diver and does the sprints.
Around the pools
Junior Andrew Marsh of Jamestown is very versatile with top 10 times in WNY in five events. . . Senior Alex Spatzer of Kenmore West has the fastest times in the NFL in the 200 free, 200 IM, 100 fly and 500 free. The NFL has the top three divers in the section so far with Austin Devlin of Niagara Falls, Eddie Quarantillo and Ryan Monteleone of Lew-Port. Lew-Port is the defending NFL champ. East Aurora looks to add to its impressive streak of 41 ECIC IV titles in a row led by Mike DeSantis, Larkin Bohanan and Kyle Warren. St. Joe's has junior Ben Verdi, who is among the best in the league in the breaststroke and 200 IM. St. Francis has a solid sprinter in Tyler Roth. Frewsburg junior Thad Johnson holds the school record in the breaststroke after going 1:00.02 at last year's states. Roy-Hart, of the co-ed Niagara-Orleans League, boasts two of the top distance swimmers with juniors Josh and Jason Beabout. The Rams (4-0) are working on their fifth consecutive undefeated season and their fifth league championship. Starpoint will compete for the ECIC III title with Zac Toth and Matt Schutt, two swimmers from last year's state team. Schutt's 1:02.11 is the fastest time in WNY in the breast. Senior Jacob Hamberger is a multiple school record holder at West Seneca East specializing in the sprints and fly.
Charting the season
Jan. 28: Clarence at Orchard Park
Jan 31: Hutch-Tech at City Honors, 4 p.m.
Feb. 1 All-Catholic meet at ECC, 6 p.m.
Feb. 1 Niagara-Orleans girls Championship at Akron
Feb. 2 Niagara-Orleans boys Championship at Akron
Feb. 3 All-High Championships at City Honors
Feb. 4-5 NFL Championships at Niag.-Wheatfield
Feb. 4-5 ECIC Championships at Sweet Home
Feb. 11-12 Class Championships at Maryvale
Feb. 18 Section VI Diving Championships at Maryvale
Feb. 18-19: Section VI Championships at Clarence
March 4-5: 51st NYS Championships on Long Island