How fitting that a swim meet to decide the top ranking in the state came down to the final event.
Trailing by eight points heading into the last race -- the 400 freestyle relay -- the Orchard Park boys needed first- and second-place finishes to dethrone defending state champion Pittsford. In one of the most clutch efforts in the program's storied history, the Quakers placed 1-2 and beat Pittsford of Section V, 94-92. Saturday's emotional home victory secured the No. 1 ranking in the state for OP for the first time since 1995.
Orchard Park's stunning victory touched off a celebration that still may be continuing. While the standing-room-only crowd roared, OP's swimmers embraced each other along the pool's edge, many with their index fingers waving in the air. The loss wasn't only the first of the season for Pittsford, it was its first defeat in three years. Pittsford had won 25 straight dual meets.
"The stage was set, this was our big chance," said OP coach Dale Heimlich. "It was every kid taking care of his small part in the big puzzle, and only paying attention to the things they can control."
Pittsford had beaten OP the past two years, and held the distinction of being the last team to beat the Quakers in their own pool. They would have made it three years in a row if not for the 400 free relay teams. Jeff Organisciak, Brad Rossi, Dave Newbery and Ryan Orser won in 3 minutes, 21.83 seconds; less than a second behind was the quartet of Josh Gernold, Mark Bender, Matt Szrama and Phil Szrama (3:22.16). Those are the two fastest times in Western New York this season.
"It's a real tribute to their team to put two relays in at the end of the meet, and to swim two extremely good times to beat what I had left," said Pittsford coach Mark Morris. "They won it. This is the No. 1 team in the state."
Pittsford won seven of the 12 events, but this meet was decided by depth. Every point and every place counted for the Quakers, who trailed most of the afternoon. They would not have been in position for the dramatic win without a pair of fourth-place finishes worth one point each by Andy DeVincentis (breaststroke) and Dave Broderdorf (100 freestyle). Orchard Park's top guns delivered as well. Matt Szrama swam a career-best 1:46.77 to win the 200 free and also won the 500 free. Bender swam season bests in the 100 and 200 freestyles.
The scariest moment of the event was when junior diver Mike Kaiser of Orchard Park struck the top of his head on the board while doing an inward 1 1/2 somersault in the tuck position. With his hair covered with blood, Kaiser was treated along the sideline. He left the pool without assistance and later received nine stitches to close the wound.
"I just cut into the board a little on my flip," said Kaiser, whose head was heavily bandaged as he walked out of the school. "I'm fine."
Teammate Jim Taravella won the diving with a score of 246.55. The loss of Kasier resulted in a three-point swing in favor of Pittsford.
"We've all been there," said Taravella, regarding Kaiser's injury. "We've all hit the board one way or another. When people see an inward or reverse when you're spinning toward the board, you come out (of it) and people have a tendency to make that gasping noise. It just plays with your mind."
Pittsford's Charlie Lewis was a quadruple winner taking the 100 butterfly, 100 backstroke and leading the 200 medley and 200 free relay teams.