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UNBEATEN ORCHARD PARK BOYS GET SHOT AT DETHRONING SECTION V POWERHOUSE

The Orchard Park boys swimming team will know after Saturday how good it is.

The best measuring stick in the state, Pittsford of Section V, will travel to Orchard Park for a 1 p.m. dual meet. Pittsford is expected to be the top-ranked team in New York State when the polls are released later this month. That would certainly change if the Quakers can win this weekend.

Pittsford, which has beaten OP in each of the last two seasons, has the distinction of being the last team to beat Orchard Park in their pool. The visiting Panthers beat the Quakers, 113-72, in 1998; OP lost at Pittsford last year.

"We've done it more with depth than front line people," said Pittsford coach Mark Morris, now in his sixth season. "This year's team is the youngest I've worked with. There are 30 kids on the team -- 10 are seventh and eighth graders. I'm just trying to survive this year because the future is extremely bright."

Pittsford has a 25-dual meet winning streak. They are 7-0 in Monroe County's Division I.

Early on, Morris said he felt vulnerable with the young roster, but as the season has progressed "my young kids have really measured up to the task. I think we've surprised a number of people."

Pittsford is led by a pair of senior co-captains who can swim a variety of events, Rob Dunn and Charlie Lewis.

The Panthers are hoping to win a third consecutive Section V Class A title this year. Pittsford keyed Section V's win in last year's New York State meet. Section V tallied 527 points while runner-up Section VI had 354 1/2 .

The Quakers bring a 10-0 record into the meet. Orchard Park, with a deep, experienced roster, feels this is its best shot to knock off Pittsford.

"We've never had so much depth as we have this year," coach Dale Heimlich said. "Next year we lose seven very important seniors. The second- and third-place person in every event will decide it. If a few of our third places can score points, that will be the meet. Both teams know that."

The Quakers will need junior Matt Szrama, senior Ryan Orser and junior Jeff Organisciak to swim well to have a chance. Senior diver Jim Taravella's contributions will also be a key.

Pittsford's two high schools, Mendon (800 enrollment from 9-12) and Pittsford (850), merged eight years ago.

Mark your calendar

The New York State meet is coming to Buffalo. The top swimmers from nine of the state's 11 sections and the NYC PSAL will complete in the 40th annual two-day event at the Burt Flickinger Aquatic Center on the Erie Community College City campus. The swimming and diving trials are March 3 and the finals in all events are March 4.

The 42nd Section VI meet is the weekend before, also at ECC. The first day of trials is Feb. 24, followed by the diving trials on Feb. 25. The finals in all events are Feb. 26.

The Syracuse Cup regular season title will be decided Feb. 3, when City Honors (7-0) swims against Hutch-Tech (7-0) at ECC at 3:45 p.m. "It's always within five points, it seems. It's that's close," said Tech coach Walter Cook, now in his sixth season.

The Engineers will bring a 35-dual meet winning streak, which includes the past three seasons.

The All-High meet is Feb. 7 at ECC at 3:45 p.m. Look for McKinley junior Tommy Seay to set City records in the 100 back and 200 freestyle.

The boys All-Catholic meet is Feb. 8 at ECC. For the first time, swimmers from that meet will have a chance to qualify for the public school state meet. Public schools are allowing Catholic school swimmers not members of a section to form one team and compete for titles in Buffalo.

For the first time the Niagara-Orleans League will swim the Buffalo Public Schools in a postseason invitational Feb. 10 at Barker. They are the only two coed swimming leagues in Western New York.

The Niagara-Orleans League has seven schools with swim teams while the city has nine. The meet gives city swimmers the chance to compete in a 25-yard pool instead of the 20-yarders.

"It's for the girls who don't have the opportunity to swim in the fall -- this is like a winter sectional," said Hutch-Tech's Cook. "We wanted to include the boys and use it as a qualifying meet for sectionals. It gives the kids a chance to swim out of their league and upgrades the programs in both leagues."

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