Dan Donnarumma made the grade with strokes in the pool, so he decided to do the same thing with strokes of a pen.
Looking for a topic for his college essay, swimming provided the answer.
"In my college essay I wrote about hard work and having a vision, seeing it in your head and just working toward that vision," said Donnarumma, a senior at Canisius.
Donnarumma's goals as a swimmer were modest at first. He would think bigger as his career progressed. As a sophomore, Donnarumma and his best friend, Jake Kwapiszeski, decided in the preseason they wanted to qualify for the state meet. Mission accomplished.
Last year, the pair not only wanted to qualify for states, they wanted to make the top eight final in their events. Done.
Now, in their senior years, they've made winning a state title a priority.
The pair figures their best shot is in the 200 medley relay as Donnarumma, Kwapiszeski and Dan Carver return from a team that placed fifth last year. The relay has already turned in a 1:30.73, which is .04 off the automatic state relay cut.
Donnarumma and Kwapiszeski have been swimming together since they were 8 years old. "They get all over each other, but it's a positive reinforcement to make them work harder," coach Chris Stuff said. "In a school where the kids come from so many different areas, it's nice to have two kids who were so closely knit."
With the Monsignor Martin Association only a three-team league, the Crusaders pursue the best nonleague competition they can. So far in 2006, they've won the Jesuit Invitational Swim Meet in New Jersey, finished second only to Pittsford at the Lockport Sprints and have beaten Williamsville North and Niagara-Wheatfield.
Beat goes on at North
Williamsville North has plenty of talent back from its Section VI championship team. The Spartans' 400 free relay team, fourth last year at states, is intact with junior Mike Lin, senior Chris Deptula, senior Brandon Beckinghausen and senior Matt Krupp. Krupp and Deptula were also on the section champion 200 medley relay.
Matt Geiger won the sectional title in the 100 back and was on North's winning 200 medley. He's at Williamsville East now, along with promising freshman Mike Anderson.
Other defending Section VI champs are Orchard Park junior Mike Dansa (200 IM), 200 free relay swimmer senior Paul Herberger of Clarence and senior Andy Gorcica of Eden (100 breast).
Divers above board
Defending state champion Ian O'Rourke of Grand Island expects the toughest competition he'll see all season to come from his own section. Section VI placed 1-3-4 last year at states led by O'Rourke, Nate Geary of Lancaster (third) and Shawn Hoffman of North Tonawanda (fourth).
O'Rourke lost his first dual meet in five years last month when Hoffman beat him in an NFL meet. Geary is the most accomplished diver in Lancaster's history. He will dive next fall at Notre Dame. He's been on varsity since seventh grade and is a scholar athlete.
Open qualifying has been unfolding across the state and Section VI has adopted it this year. Instead of needing to hit a state cut at sectionals to make states, swimmers can now do it at any meet during the season. . . . Longtime Hamburg coach Paul Rabener has retired. Rabener started at Lackawanna in 1972 and had been Hamburg's coach since 1988. . . . Section VI will host the New York State Championships on March 2-3 at the Erie Community College Burt Flickinger Center. . . . Lockport has a talented exchange student, senior Norman Schmidt from Germany. He's still trying to find the events that suit him best. Lions senior Nick Corraine went to states in the 50 last year. . . . Niagara-Wheatfield, 16-0 last year, is off to a 4-0 start. Senior Russell Sullivan (100 back), senior Isaac Paterson (500) and junior Lukas Shumway (100 breast) were state qualifiers last year. . . . Grand Island senior Jordan Stickl is poised for a big year in the fly, back and sprints. . . . North Tonawanda's Brett Kozlowski is his league's top IMer, and is strong in the 500. . . . City Honors, off to a 3-0 start, has already broken a Syracuse Cup record in the girls 200 free as sophomore Lizzie Lodinsky has gone 2:07.97. The Centaurs have won seven Cups in a row. Senior Bradley Muldrow hold the school record in the 200 IM (2:35.13). Patrick Hurley is another strong swimmer. . . . Hutch-Tech junior Jackson Standard and senior Christina Manuszewski are proficient at all the strokes. City Honors swims Hutch-Tech Jan. 29.