By Perry L. Novak
SPECIAL TO THE NEWS
ITHACA – One would be hard pressed to find a happier bunch of runners-up.
Section VI’s girls swimmers gave it their best in the state championship meet Saturday at Ithaca College. And almost all who competed in the finals had their best times.
But the times were not quite good enough for a state title.
Olivia Sapio of Orchard Park was second in the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly, and Alyssa Helak of Williamsville North was second in the 100 backstroke to lead Section VI’s swimmers on the final day of the two-day event.
"I’m really happy with my times," Sapio said after clocking a 2:02.29 in the 200 IM and a 55.00 in the 100 fly. "I expected to get my best times. It was exciting, especially to be here with my teammates."
Sapio was one of almost a dozen Quakers battling against the state’s best Saturday. She lowered her time in the butterfly final by .37, but Long Beach’s Kristen Romano, the defending state champion, broke a 26-year-old state record to beat her. The Section VIII star clocked a 53.13, more than two seconds faster than her previous time. Sapio went .60 faster in the IM earlier in the meet. But she was outdone by LB’s Margaret Aroesty’s stunning 1:59.51. Sapio swam a 2:02.29.
"It’s really only bittersweet because it’s the last time I’ll get to swim with my teammates," said Sapio, who will swim at the University at Buffalo next year.
Section VI also had a relay take second. OP opened the meet with a 1:45.93 in the 200 Medley Relay but was edged by Long Beach. The Quakers actually grabbed a slim lead at the start and were barely second through the midpoint. Long Beach then had outstanding swims in the last two legs to set a state record with a 1:43.21. Orchard Park’s team of Olivia and Isabel Sapio, Katrina Wardner and Halle Dueringer wound up second with their season’s best clocking.
The Louisiana State University-bound Helak had only one chance to swim with her Williamsville North teammates as she was strictly a club swimmer until this year. She capped her season with a 56.06 in the 100 backstroke to take second behind Romano’s state record 53.36. Helak went a little too deep at the start and didn’t surface exactly where Coach Doug Cassidy hoped for to have a chance to catch Romano. But the speedy senior went from fourth to second with a great finish.
"She is a great competitor," Cassidy said. "She really kicks it in at the end. It was a great swim, and she finally got to wear our colors."
Helak also took third in the 200 free in 1:50.97. That was a second and a half faster than her seed time. The trouble was: Pittsford senior Lindsay Stone set a state record with a 1:47.9 for the win.
Wardner added a fourth place (55.66) in the 100 butterfly for Orchard Park, Sacred Heart Academy’s Lauryn Johnson was fifth (56.02). Orchard Park added a third in the 200 freestyle relay in 1:37.30.
Southwestern’s Jillian Lawton had her team’s best finish, fourth in the 50 freestyle. Pelham’s Katherine Douglass swam a state record 22.21 seconds in Friday’s semifinal and was barely slower in the final with her 22.31. It was good enough for first by 1.16 and still impressed all, but Lawton was still very upbeat.
"Swimming the 50 opened a lot of doors for me," the uncommitted senior said with a big smile. "I’m really proud of my time, and the girls who swam with me."
So was her coach, Lauren Caldwell.
"Jillian’s a great girl and a great leader," Caldwell said. "She works extra hard. The key was being positive. She really wanted it."
Romano and Douglass shared Swimmer-of-the-Meet honors.
Section I won the team title with 792.5 points followed by Section V (659), Section VIII (627.5), Section II (400) had 400 And Section VI (371).
"It was tough competition, but they all had their best times or almost their best times," Orchard Park coach Bret Norvilitis said of his youthful team.
"And our medley relay set a section record that won’t be touched for some time. They swam so well. It’s perfect," he said.
Only three of Orchard Park’s swimmers at the state meet will graduate next spring, so 2017 holds much promise. And the Quakers finished an impressive third in the unofficial individual team competition. Pittsford won easily and Long Beach was second.