Saturday's finals of the New York State Girls Swimming and Diving Championships had it all: four state records, All-America times and plenty of emotion.
The emotion came courtesy of Orchard Park, which experienced the highest highs and lowest lows while competing in the 27th annual event in the Erie Community College Burt Flickinger Center.
The highest high came in the 200-yard freestyle relay when Megan Smith, Martha Whistler, Marie Wolbert and Alaina Thiel broke their own state record, winning in an automatic All-America time of 1:37.05. Splits of 23.45 seconds from Whistler and 23.43 from Thiel made it happen.
The state championship patch was the fifth for Whistler and Wolbert, and the third for Thiel. Whistler and Wolbert were part of the 1999 team that held the previous state record of 1:37.35.
Although they lost the 400 free relay by six-hundreths of a second, there was still reason to celebrate when the same OP foursome shattered the Section VI record going 3:32.99, another automatic All-America time. OP held the previous section record of 3:35.19.
It took a state record by Newburgh Free Academy from Section IX to deny OP in the 400. Newburgh broke its own state record, finishing in 3:32.93.
The story was much different in the 200 medley relay and 50 freestyle. The senior-led Quakers had set the realistic goal of winning all three relays at states. But that dream died quickly after a slip at the start of the 200 medley relay cost the Quakers a chance to win the event for the fifth year in a row.
OP nearly pulled it out, but Newburgh took advantage of the slip-up, finishing 1:51.03 while OP came in at 1:51.44.
Eighth-grader Hannah Whistler, competing in her first state meet, had the misfortune of having her foot slip on the wall just before the start of her backstroke leg.
"Hannah fell off the blocks and she was a mile behind, but she didn't quit," said OP coach Art Aungst. "And everybody else said, 'Hey, let's do this thing.' And we came within a couple tenths of pulling it off. That's just the kind of determination we have. Obviously, the meet could only get better after that."
But it didn't. Three events later, Martha Whistler considered her swim in the 50 free a disaster. With the fastest time in the state this year and the fastest time in prelims, she was the clear favorite. Instead, she placed second for the second year in a row.
"This (stinks). There's nothing else I can say," said Martha, unable to hold back the tears. "I just blew my own race. If I would have known what happened, I wouldn't have done it."
The news was better in diving. Section VI came up big, grabbing three of the top five places. Junior Kelly Beatty of Grand Island was in 11th place after Friday's eight-dive semifinal. She scored big on her final three dives and finished third. She was happiest with her front 2 1/2 with a twist.
"I had been missing it in practice, but I hit it pretty good today," said Beatty, who was competing in her first states since eighth grade. "I didn't have the best takeoff, but I spun well in the air and felt the entry in the air go straight in."
Junior Shana Dege of Lockport started in seventh but worked her way into fourth after nailing her last dive, 1 1/2 flips with a twist. Seventh-grader Casey Matthews of Williamsville North held onto fifth place.
With Martha Whistler graduating, the future of 50 free in Section VI appears to belong to freshman Sammy Palma of Lancaster, who placed fourth in 24.57. Another finalist, junior Anneli Johnson of Frewsburg, placed fifth in the 100 breast stroke in 1:08.40. She broke 1:07 for the first time in prelims.
In a premeet ceremony, Lockport senior Jourdan Spark got New York State's Good Sport Award.
She was the only senior on the Lady Lions' 200 free relay team that made some waves of its own placing second behind OP. Spark, along with juniors Karissa Tolli, Lauren Yacos and Maren MacDonald, finished in an automatic All-America time of 1:39.22.
By failing to place a swimmer in the finals of six of eight individual events, Section VI had little chance of winning the team title. Section I (Westchester County) took top honors, while Section VI placed fifth.
While Newburgh Free Academy won two of the three relays, it also had the top individual performer.
Junior Kierstin Koronowicz set a state record while winning the 200 free in 1:49.76. She also upset the three-time defending state champion to win the 500 free. Koronowicz shaved an amazing nine seconds off her preliminary time in the 500 to unseat Sarah Daly of Garden City, L.I., and win in 4:50.26. She was also on both of NFA's winning relays.
Sophomore backstroker Karly Brooks of Scotia (Section II) went 56.38 to break the state record of 56.42 set in 1998 by Tori Delollo of Loudonville.