Robert Burkett arguably already had been the Most Outstanding Performer at the Section VI Swimming & Diving Championships when he walked into the natatorium at the University at Buffalo’s North Campus Wednesday.
Winning both the 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard breaststroke just allowed the Frontier senior to get a plaque to show for it.
Three years ago, he didn’t even expect to be at the event.
During his freshman year, Burkett was warming up before a meet and injured his neck.
The injury left him in a neck brace for about 30 weeks, making swimming the furthest thing from his mind.
“No, not at all,” said Burkett, reflecting back on when he was in the brace. “Honestly what was going through my head was trying to get better. I wasn’t even expecting to be able to come here. Now I’m going to states.”
Burkett will join the group of Section VI athletes going to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Swimming & Diving Championships at the Nassau County Aquatic Center on Long Island on March 6 and 7.
Lockport’s Mark Crocker knew exactly what he was going for Wednesday.
Crocker broke the school record for the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 47.16 seconds. That was good enough to win the sectional title.
The senior said breaking the mark had been on his mind for a very long time.
“I’ve been looking up at that board (Lockport’s record board) ever since I started swimming, back when I was in first grade,” Crocker said. “I always looked up at that board and wanted my name to be up there. Now to look up there and see my name in six or seven different places is just surreal.”
The previous mark was held by Jeff Scranton, who set the record back in 1992.
Lions’ coach John Sullivan says Crocker, who now holds three school records, and classmate Jacob Minnick, who won his third-straight diving title earlier in the day with a score of 485.95, have been a driving force for the program over the past few years.
Minnick returned to UB to cheer on Crocker and the rest of his teammates.
“We’ve been training for states together for the past few years,” Minnick said. “At that point it’s just the two of us. He might be in the water and I might be on the board but we’re still together.”
East Aurora’s Ezra Webster pulled off the biggest upset of the night, winning the 50-yard freestyle after coming in as the seventh seed in the event. He swam the race in 22.07 seconds to punch his ticket to states.
Lancaster’s Ian Hewett hit his head on the gutter at the Class A championships earlier this month, costing the sophomore the 200-yard IM. Wednesday, there was no issue and Hewett successfully defended his title for the event with a time of 1:57.48.
Hewett beat freshman teammate Aaron Gasiewicz, and both will be going to states.
Orchard Park’s Patrick McCrone came in third, but did well enough to qualify for states on time.
McCrone, along with Luke Sapio, Andrew Descovich and Josh Stegner, captured both the 200-yard medley relay and the 400-yard freestyle relay for the Quakers.
Hamburg will send a pair to Long Island. Junior Zach Eisenmann beat his best time in the 500-yard freestyle by a staggering six seconds to win the Section VI title. Sophomore Ben Kisker won the 100-yard backstroke.
Panama sophomore Richard Helt captured the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:48.64.
Jamestown’s Joe and Brennan Roehmholdt, Jacob Anderson and Kyle Dean won the 200-yard freestyle relay with a time of 1:29.84 after coming in as the fourth seed for that event.
Wyatt Fuller of Springville got second place in the diving with a score of 479.25. He also punched his ticket for states.