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Hamburg swimmers dominate sectionals as Kennedy sets record

Hamburg finished the Section VI swimming and diving championships the same way it started the final day of the meet.

Triumphantly.

In between the 200-yard medley and 400-freestyle relay events, Bulldogs swimmers set personal-best marks, a section record and, of course, did even more winning.

Hamburg captured six out of 12 championship heats Tuesday at Erie Community College’s Flickinger Center pool.

A great start in the 200 medley relay by Michael Maurer, Luke Kennedy, Christian Steiner and Liam O’Connell provided the momentum, and sense of belief, the Bulldogs could perform just as well if not better than they did at last year’s sectional meet when four swimmers won championships.

“Amazing,” said Kennedy who set the Section VI record in the 100-yard breaststroke by finishing in an All-American consideration time of 57.26 seconds. “Just about all of us set PRs (personal records).”

“It’s beyond amazing,” added Maurer, who in addition to anchoring the 400 relay’s meet-closing victory also captured championships in the backstroke and 200 individual medley. “Today has been great.”

Luke Kennedy wins the 100 breaststroke in a Section VI record time of 57.26. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

Event champions and those who hit state qualifying meet times during the season advance to the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association championships March 3-4 at the Nassau County Aquatic Center in Long Island.

Olean senior Seth Farrand received Most Outstanding Swimmer of the meet honors for the second year in a row. He flirted with a section record in breaking the 21-seconds barrier for the first time in winning the 50 freestyle in All-American consideration time of 20.84. He followed that by winning the 100 free in 46.43 seconds.

“It’s crazy,” said Farrand, who won the 100 butterfly and backstroke last year, of breaking 21 seconds. “Everything was perfect. I just got pumped and went for it.”

Seth Farrand of Olean won the 50 and 100 freestyle events en route to earning Most Outstanding Swimmer of the Meet honors. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

The Hamburg swimmers understand that feeling, since that’s what they did before more than 500 fans.

It started with Maurer, who dropped roughly two seconds in his split of the 200 medley relay. He capped his day by shaving close to two seconds off his best leg in anchoring the 400 relay as Hamburg set a school record in posting a 3:15.46 finish. It’s the first time this season the Bulldogs finished ahead of Orchard Park in the event at the same meet.

“I think the medley relay got us off to a fast start,” Hamburg coach Andy Godios said. “As the meet went on we saw all our times drop in all individual events. … We’re ecstatic with the way the day went.”

So is Kennedy, but not because he’s pumped at becoming the first Hamburg boys swimmer to set a Section VI record.

“The relays, they’re what get me pumped up,” said Kennedy, a senior, who dropped a second on his split time in the 200 medley relay from Monday’s preliminary heats.

The secret weapon in that hot start: Liam O’Connell who did not swim in preliminary heats in the medley relay Monday because he focused on hitting the state qualifying time in the 200 free, which immediately followed the relay. On Tuesday, since there’s more rest time between the events, he returned to the medley relay swimming the anchor leg as the Bulldogs finished nearly three seconds faster Tuesday than Monday with a time of 1:38.44.

O’Connell took second in the 200 free but captured the title in the 500 free. He finished ahead of 200 freestyle champion Anthony Mariniello of Williamsville South in that event.

“Right when we hit these times in the first event,” Kennedy said, “we just went crazy.”

Crazy fast, with the Bulldogs saving the best for last in the 400 relay with Braden Feasley joining O’Connell, Kennedy and Maurer to edge top-seeded OP, which came into the meet having already hit the state qualifying standard in the event.

Orchard Park captured the 200 free relay as the team of Mason McMullen, Sean Duffy, Riley McLaughlin and Trevor Hoch triumphed in personal-best time of 1:28.61.

Williamsville East had two capture titles with Tim Finley winning the diving (547.75 points) to sweep the ECIC, Class and Section VI championship meets for the second year in a row. Teammate Michael Clough won the butterfly.

South's Mariniello is now 3 for 3 in the 200 free at sectionals. He won championships his first two seasons but opted not to swim the event last year after hitting the state qualifying time so that another teammate, a senior, could qualify for states for the first time.

Even though he hit state qualifying marks in the 200 free and 500 free prior to this meet, there's no way he was sitting this one out.

"Senior year, I wanted to finish with a win," he said.

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