Both teams have chance to move up
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Swimming and Diving
FREDONIA, N.Y. -- Last season, both the men’s and women’s swim teams finished in the middle of the SUNYAC -- fifth among nine teams. This season’s goal is for both squads to move into the upper half of the standings. Both teams will rely on decorated veterans that dot the record books, as well as some new faces to improve from a season ago.
Leadership and experience will come from senior Mandy Nelson (Frewsburg/Frewsburg) in the distances, and Taylor Kelly (Wading River/Shoreham-Wading River) and Leiya Pujals (Kings Park/Kings Park) in the breaststroke and individual medley. Three years ago, they made up the core of what was a strong incoming class of freshmen and have produced a number of team records.
Pujals holds team marks for both the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke. Kelly is a member of the 200- and 400-yard medley relay record holders, and Nelson was part of the 800-yard freestyle relay team.
Mix in the team’s top returnees, junior captain Morgan Reisch (Fairport/Fairport) and sophomore Juliana Walker (Frewsburg/Frewsburg), and the Blue Devils can visualize a jump in the standings.
Reisch appears in the record board in eight events -- four individuals and four relays. The versatile captain holds marks in the freestyle, backstroke, and IM. Head coach Arthur Wang feels she is a threat to finish in the top three in the SUNYACs in any event.
Walker had an outstanding freshman campaign. She set the 50-yard freestyle mark, and is stronger as a sophomore. Her preliminary time in the 100-yard butterfly at the SUNYAC meet last season would have been good enough to capture the event. In the finals, she ended up fourth, just :0.04 of second out of third.
In the diving tank, the Devils will be hard pressed to duplicate last year’s result – a national title doesn’t come along every year. However, Wang expects diving to continue to be a strength.
The team returns four divers – senior Heather Robin (Dansville/Dansville), and sophomores Leanne Kies (Owego/Owego Free Academy), Samantha Brethel (Floral Park/Sewanhaka), and Bethany Jones (Churchville/Churchville Chili). Three freshmen also deepen the squad.
A total of seven swimmers make up the freshmen class. The strength of the group in the early goings is the cohesiveness and work ethic from top to bottom. No one stands out more than the next, but as a group, they stand out as potentially the top class since Wang took over the program.
“The big difference this year," he said, "is the attitude, personality and work ethic is much more uniform throughout the group. They are much more cohesive and appear to be more accountable to each other. They are hard-working and no nonsense.”
With the individual accomplishments of several swimmers in varied events, relays may be what give the Devils the biggest boost in the standings. The goal is to finish in the top three in each of the relays at the conference championships.
Seniors will lead the way for the men as well. Team captain Christian Torres (Dunkirk/Dunkirk) continues a strong diving tradition at Fredonia State, and will challenge for a conference title. Torres and former Blue Devil All American Scott Horsington own all the team diving marks. Torres dominated the non-conference meets, and took third in the 3-meter event at SUNYACs with an NCAA provisional score. He finished fourth off the 1-meter board.
Fellow senior Mike Seay (Grand Islan/Grand Island) holds three individual records – the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke and the 200-yard IM. Wang feels that because he is so versatile, he could finish in the top eight in the conference in any event.
A third senior, Derek Greiner (Angola/Lake Shore), will also captain the squad. He has dropped significant times each year, and will challenge for the school mark in the 200-yard backstroke.
Junior Mike Mitchell (Medinia/Medina, Ohio) is the third captain. He has been a workhorse since coming in as a freshman, and is the Devils’ top distance man this season. He has improved his mile time by over a minute in the past three seasons, and Wang feels he can finish at or near the top in the conference and has a shot at the school record, as well as posting an NCAA qualifying time.
The team returns two juniors looking to make their mark for the first time in Kevin Kaiser (Orchard Park/Orchard Park) and Ryan McGroder (Buffalo/St. Joe’s).
Three sophomore swimmers have developed since their freshman campaigns and are right on schedule to impact this season. Zac Parker (Rochester/Brighton) and Mike Hughson (Albion/Albion) in the butterfly and IM, and Matt Beebe (Rochester/Greece) in the freestyle.
At the SUNYAC meet, Parker finished eighth in the 100-yard butterfly and was part of 200-yard medley team (fourth overall) and the 400-yard freestyle relay team (third).
Led by Torres, Wang feels top to bottom, the diving squad is as strong as it’s ever been. Last year, they had two divers in the top eight – sophomore Shane Ammering (Canandaigua/Canandaigua) finished seventh. This year, Wang expects to have three of the top eight in a conference that several divers to the National Championship. Sophomore John Rodman (Livonia/Livonia) and freshman Ryan Fuller (Endicott/Union Endicott) round out the divers.
In order to move up the conference rankings, the men’s team can see the light. They finished comfortably in fifth place last year with 367 team points, nearly double that of fifth-place Brockport who they defeated in 12 of 13 events in a meet on Jan. 21. Conversely, they were only 21 points shy of third-place Oswego. A few seconds here and there will make all the difference.
The women have a steeper challenge ahead. They did finish 89 points ahead of Oneonta, but trailed fourth-place Cortland by just over 200 points. With a very strong group of returnees, and a young group with a great work ethic, Wang expects the team to continue progress towards the top.
Both teams will open up vs. Niagara University on Friday, then travel to Cortland for the Red Dragon Relays the following day.