Ready or not, Western New York, it’s time for your close-up. The eyes of the state scholastic sports scene will be set upon thee during the next two weeks starting Friday morning.
That’s when the two-day state swimming and diving championship begins at 11 a.m. at Erie Community College’s Flickinger Center pool with preliminary heats and diving finals.
That’s not the only event the area has been eagerly awaiting. The two-day New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association bowling championships start Saturday at Airport Lanes in Cheektowaga. Also on Saturday, the area gets a sampling of the NYSPHSAA boys hockey tournament as there is a quarterfinal-round doubleheader involving Section VI’s champions slated at Northtown Center. The winners of those two games advance to the state final foul March 12-13 at HarborCenter.
“It’s the state championships,” said Section VI boys bowling chairman Dan Kaplan. “How often do you get to see those?”
The Section VI coordinators for their respective sports are used to organizing big-time tournaments. They do it annually as the Section VI tournaments in most sports are among the most-organizied and best-run events in the state.
That doesn’t mean organizers aren’t feeling stressed.
Kaplan and girls bowling chairman Ed Ventry have organized a Section VI event that features 50 teams multiple times. Kaplan is in his eighth season as chair, Ventry his third.
But they aren’t trying to leave a lasting first impression on folks who are visiting the area during sectionals. That’s what they’re trying to do this weekend.
“Sectionals we can do it blind-folded,” Kaplan said. “This one, it’s the unknown that’s keeping me up at night. We want to put on a good show. We want everything to be perfect. We’re nervous but we’ve never done this. This is a different beast.”
Historically, Section VI has done well in state bowling. Last year Section VI took second in the all-section boys event and first in the girls.
Teams representing the section include Orchard Park girls and Frontier boys on Saturday in the team competition.
During Sunday’s individual/All-Section round boys qualifiers include Nate Maloney (Niagara-Wheatfield), Josh Large (Tonawanda), Joe Scapillato (Depew); Thomas Kowal (South Park), Tom Klenke (Orchard Park) and Andrew Burckhalter (West Seneca West).
Girls All-Section VI team members include Kayli Christ (Maryvale), Rachel Wagner (Depew), Cameron Spring (Allegany-Limestone), Angela Gabriele (Niagara Falls), Sarah Godfrey (Depew) and Brittany McAndrews (Frontier).
Meanwhile, the swimming and diving championships are a two-day event that concludes Saturday. Leading the charge for the area is Matt Marsh, the reigning state champion in the 100-yard freestyle. He heads into states as Section VI champion in the 100 and 50 free and also will be part of the Red Raiders’ 200 medley and 200 free relay teams.
Olean’s Seth Farrand also heads into state with momentum as the junior is coming off a Most Outstanding Swimmer’s effort after winning sectional titles in the 100 butterfly and backstroke. Hamburg’s Michael Mauer, Luke Kennedy, Cody Wittmeyer and Kyle Griffin collectively qualified in eight different events, including the 200 medley and 200 free relays.
Section VI hockey champions Kenmore East (15-6-1) and Williamsville North (17-4-2) look to take advantage of home ice during a quarterfinal doubleheader that starts at 5:15 p.m. at Northtown Center. Division II champ Ken East opens against St. Lawrence (16-3-3) of Section X in its first tournament appearance since winning the state title in 2012.
The Division I regional follows as North hosts Section V champion Pittsford (16-5-1). The Spartans won the state crown in their last tournament appearance in 2011.
In other tournament action away from home, St. Joe’s (25-2-1) looks to win its 10th New York State Catholic High School Athletic Association hockey championship in the past 14 years Saturday when it laces it up against unbeaten St. Anthony’s of Long Island (20-0) at Coney Island’s Abe Stark Rink. The Marauders have won their last 20 games.
The state track and field championship take place Saturday at Cornell in Ithaca.