Doubts gradually became questions and questions eventually were answered in the affirmative as the Our Lady of Lourdes High School boys swimming team proved even itself wrong.
With a slew of standouts having graduated last year, the Warriors entered this season wondering how well they could fare in a difficult division within a grueling section.
The answer: Pretty good.
The Warriors took eighth out of 25 teams in the Section 1 swimming and diving championships on Wednesday — the best finish among Dutchess County squads — and had four swimmers qualify for the state tournament.
Lourdes’ Christian Thomas, Jason Boyko, Stephen Baker and Jason Cruz were among seven local swimmers who earned a chance to compete in the state championships, which runs March 3-4 at the Nassau County Aquatic Center in East Meadow.
Arlington swimmers Michael Baione and Phillip Volaski, and Wappingers’ Chauncey Nicholas also made it.
Horace Greeley won the event, racking up 288 points at Felix Festa Middle School in West Nyack. Lourdes totaled 134 points. Wappingers took 10th (101) and Arlington placed 13th (87).
“This feels pretty good,” said Jason Boyko, a senior making his third trip to the state tournament but competing for the first time in individual events. “We take a lot of pride in it. We don’t have that many people with experience on the team, but we have good people. It’s quality over quantity.”
Although, in this case, Lourdes will have a fair quantity headed to states. The Warriors began the season with a roster of 17, eight of whom were new to competitive swimming.
Thomas took second in the 200-yard individual medley, and his 1:56.09 finish broke the program record of 1:57.0 set by Andrew Kelleher in 2012. The senior also took second in the 100 backstroke and his 51.42 topped his own school record of 51.80, set last year.
He qualified for the state tournament in both events and will join Boyko, Baker and Cruz as the quartet competing in the 200 medley and the 400 freestyle relays. The group took third in the 400 (3:16.10) and sixth in the medley (1:40.55).
Jason Boyko placed seventh in the 100 butterfly and his 53.69 broke his own program record of 54.45, set last month. Boyko also qualified for the 500 freestyle, finishing fifth (4:50.27).
Cruz took ninth in the 50 freestyle (22.91) and 13th in the 100 freestyle (50.87). Baker was 15th in the 200 freestyle (1:53.04) and 16th in the 500 freestyle (5:05.40).
“It’s an outstanding effort and a great finish for them,” said Lourdes assistant coach Art Boyko, whose senior-laden team took ninth in the section tournament a year ago. “For us to finish this high with only four swimmers making the final was remarkable. And the whole team was there to support them.”
Baione qualified for the 100 freestyle thanks to his split of 48.72 as the leadoff for the Admirals in the 400 freestyle relay. Volaski took eighth in the 200 IM (2:00.57).
Nicholas, who helped lead Wappingers to an undefeated league season and a victory in the Section 1 Conference 3 championships on Jan. 28, will compete in the state 100 butterfly. The junior secured a berth during the conference championships, winning that race in a state qualifying 52.66.
“We are both very excited for (Nicholas) and looking forward to what he is going to do at states,” said Wappingers coach Chellie Milanese, referring to herself and co-coach Renay Cerrato. “We’re very proud of the season the whole team had.”
Stephen Haynes: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4