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Stories of progress: previewing SUNYACs 2016
Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Stories of progress: previewing SUNYACs 2016

By Ryan Maloney, Graduate Assistant in Sports Information

On a chilly Tuesday morning in Florida last month, Fredonia Blue Devil Head Swimming and Diving Coach Arthur Wang introduced his team to a former Blue Devil swimmer, Mike Mitchell.

Mitchell, a 2011 graduate and now a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer in that area, came to greet the team during their yearly training trip to Coral Springs. The nine-day trip is the most physically demanding portion of the season, and it's made exponentially more difficult if the swimmers don't train on their winter break. Mitchell's visit was an opportune moment for Wang to deliver some perspective.

"Mike swam a 5:35 in the 500 free as a freshman," Wang said, recalling the story he told the team as they prepared for another grueling workout, "but as a senior he was at 4:45, which is almost a minute drop! He finished top-three in the conference. He would do everything that I asked. Those are the things that justify how good our program is at bringing athletes along. When I recruit, the one thing I tell them is that if you commit to everything I ask you to do, you are going to get faster, and I have so many stories that I can share."

For the next hour, Wang and diving coach Ryan Fuller spoke with pleasure of the athletes they've most seen improvement from in their years at Fredonia, leading up to SUNYAC Championships this weekend in Buffalo:

1) Will Baker (East Amherst, N.Y.) - 100-yard freestyle/200-yard freestyle: Will Baker uses words like "lazy" and "unfocused" to describe himself four years ago as a freshman. A talented swimmer coming out of Williamsville North High School, Baker needed several years to shed layers of his adolescent self, which culminated in his setting Fredonia's school record in the 200-yard freestyle at SUNYAC Championships in 2015. When Wang thinks of the progress his swimmers have made over their careers, Baker is one of the first to come to mind.

 

Arthur Wang: "I'm excited for Will just in the fact that he's come so far as a person, as a swimmer, and a captain who accepts more responsibility. Will could have been a much more dominant swimmer in high school had he had the training and confidence that he has now. The belief that he can do it really translates into his ability to be very successful. He's had to become more accountable recently without the swimmers around him he used to have pushing him. He's much more driven this year."

2) The divers - 1-meter and 3-meter springboard diving: Fredonia has won more than half of the SUNYAC titles over the last decade. Last year at SUNYAC Championships, Meghan Bartlett (Johnstown, N.Y.) won both events, while Arron Carlson (LeRoy) took second in each behind Geneseo's Samuel Randall. This year, Rafael Santiago (Middletown) will also push to win a SUNYAC title, while Samantha Kowalewski (Cowlesville) could sneak up on divers who beat her last year. All seven divers had one of their best meets of the season three weeks ago at Trinity University in Texas.

 

Ryan Fuller: "I'm excited to see how the progress from Texas transitions to the SUNYAC meet. I think Arron (Carlson) has a really good chance of doing well. He's improved so much this year, and he has a good chance of being right at the top, along with Meghan who has been really consistent lately. They could both be right at the top. If Rafi (Santiago) has a good meet he could be up there too. He'll compete with Arron if he's consistent. I'm excited to see how Sam is going to finish this year. I think she'll give those girls a run for their money, which nobody will see coming."

3) Lauren Goeing (Clarence) - 100-yard breaststroke / 200-yard breaststroke - During high school, Goeing was told by coaches that she probably wasn't talented enough to swim in college. Four years later, she's one of the fastest breaststrokers in the conference, looking to finish on the podium at SUNYAC Championships.

Arthur Wang: "I think Lolo has been one of the most pleasant people I've coached. She's just come so far as well. Lauren was told that she wouldn't have much opportunity to swim in college, and now here she is, ranked No. 7 and No. 5 in the 100 and 200 breaststroke. And she cares. All the seniors care about the future of this program. They want to leave it in a better spot than when they came in. I'm happy to see Lolo be aggressive and be a little bit selfish. She has to be that way if she wants to be as successful as she's capable of being."

4) Sam Rokos (Delanson) - 200-yard freestyle / 200-yard individual medley - It grants a coach peace of mind to have a swimmer with the versatility of Sam Rokos. Originally a distance swimmer, Rokos has been called on to compete in virtually every event in her four years, now specializing in mid-distance events. It was fitting that she broke the school record in the 200-yard individual medley in December as a senior, an event that requires expertise in all four strokes.

 

Arthur Wang: "Sam goes about practice in a very blue collar attitude She knows there are no shortcuts involved with this, so she does everything she has to do. We've discovered that she can be super versatile. She came more as a distance swimmer, but now she's developed an ability to do any stroke for any distance whenever we needed her. It's a luxury to have someone like that. I appreciate what (Sam) has gone through to get this good."

5) Adam Clouthier (Fairport) and Jake Favret (Watertown) - 100-yard breaststroke/200-yard breaststroke: Clouthier, a junior, is the reigning SUNYAC champion in the 100-yard breaststroke and 200-yard breaststroke. Favret, a freshman, has regularly been beating Clouthier in the former. Favret tends toward a more aggressive approach with his six-foot four frame, whereas Clouthier, at five-foot ten, relies on unprecedented technical ability to succeed. In one of the most competitive SUNYAC breaststroke lineups in recent memory, Favret and Clouthier each have qualities the other needs to finish at the top of the field.

 

Arthur Wang: "One of the interesting developments has been the friendly rivalry between Adam and Jake. Adam is very competitive when it comes to championships. He competes like no other as far as I'm concerned. In his two SUNYAC competitions, he's won three titles. This year the breaststroke events are stacked (in the SUNYAC). But when Adam knows the expectations are there to do well, he definitely shows up. What bodes well this year is that he's had Jake (Favret) to push him. They've pushed each other."

6) Troy Lubanski (Leicester) and Nathan Link (Grand Island) - 100-yard backstroke/200-yard backstroke - Coming into this season it was assumed that Troy Lubanski would be the only male backstroker capable of scoring points at SUNYACs come February, but that was before Nathan Link cracked the Top 20 both events. What was once a far fetched notion has come closer to reality as Link inches closer to joining Lubanski at the top of the conference in the backstroke. Link's emergence could free up Lubanski next season to focus on his preferred event, the individual medley, in which he excels.

 

Arthur Wang: "Nate Link was maybe a 1:04 backstroker out of high school. If you're a college recruiter, you're probably not heavily recruiting that. But you see his times now and you'd be recruiting him. Right now he's gone :57, which is a huge drop from his senior year of high school. He's pressuring Troy in a good way. Nate has made such a huge turnaround, he's become very competitive. I'd like to see him score in both backstroke events. I think Troy has only lost the individual medley once or twice this year. I'm glad that's going to be his first event at championships, because he'll be fresh and he's due for a big drop. It's good for these two to push each other."

7) Danielle Dembrow (Lockport) - 100-yard breaststroke/200-yard breaststroke - As a sophomore, Dembrow finished just off the podium at SUNYAC Championships, taking ninth in the 100-yard breaststroke and tenth in the 200-yard breaststroke. Now a junior, she has ranked in the top-eight in both events all season, emerging as one of Fredonia's elite performers. Wang expects she can finish in the top-three this weekend.

 

Arthur Wang: "Dani has really arrived this year more than any other year. She's evolved and progressed over the seasons. If you challenge her, she'll rise to the occasion more often than not. I'd like to see her get in the top three in both breaststrokes. She has the ability to be top eight in the individual medley too. She has more focus this year, and she has a big chance to beat both her times from last year."

8) Graham Jones (Buffalo) - 500 yard freestyle, and Liam Jones (Buffalo) - 100-yard butterfly / 200-yard butterfly - Younger siblings often worry about losing a sense of individuality if they compete on the same team as an older brother or sister. It's the reason Graham Jones was hesitant to come to Fredonia while his brother Liam was already on the team. Two years later, Graham has emerged as one of the top distance swimmers in the SUNYAC, while Liam continues climbing the ranks in the butterfly. Any hesitation either originally had about swimming on the same team has vanished.

 

Arthur Wang: "This is the first year we've gotten to have them swim together. When I was first recruiting Graham he said he didn't want to swim with his brother. They didn't want to swim together at the same school, and now they do. It's fun for the Jones family to come watch a meet, to see their sons blossom. They've both had a bit of an "aha" moment, realizing they can both swim faster than they thought. I think it helps Graham be confident in our program when he saw how much his older brother improved."

 

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