Until this year, there were only three areas in New York — Buffalo, Rochester and Long Island — with swimming facilities suitable for hosting a meet as large as the state public high school championships.
But in 2011, Ithaca College unveiled its $65.5 million Athletics & Events Center, which includes a nine-lane, Olympic-size pool in the aquatics pavilion. This past spring, Section 4’s bid to host its first state swim meet was accepted, and this weekend the state’s top high school female swimmers are gathering on South Hill for the annual meet.
“It’s perfect,” Diane Hicks-Hughes, the Section 4 girls swimming coordinator and Lansing coach, said of the IC facility. “It has everything you need for a meet of this size — warmup space, a separate diving area, deck space, locker rooms. It’s very nice.”
As to whether the pool is a fast one? “We will know more after this weekend,” Hicks-Hughes said.
Ithaca College will host the girls swim championships next year, as well. The college will also host the boys swimming and diving championships, which are held in March, in 2014 and ’15.
More than 300 swimmers and divers from 11 sections are scheduled to compete. The pool will be open to swimmers from 4-6:45 this afternoon for practice; the meet begins at 11 a.m. Friday with the parade of officials, to be followed by the parade of seniors and then preliminary heats at 11:15. Diving is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Friday and will conclude that same evening.
Tickets are $8 per session for everyone; no student or senior discounts.
Section 4 is sending competitors in all 12 events, with the majority of this area’s participants coming from Ithaca High. The Little Red has teams in both the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays — both events will feature Hannah Bollinger, Cecile Browning, Karinna Browning and Kayla Sherwyn, along with alternates Joyce Smith, Indianna Stratton, Rebel Todhunter and Annali Vernon.
Bollinger and Cecile Browning are both swimming the 200 and 500 freestyles; they will be joined in the 500 by Lansing sophomore Adele Ferris.
Ferris, who was injured last year and missed out on states, is also competing in the 200 individual medley. Other local swimmers slated to compete include Ithaca’s Ayla Bonniwell (diving) and Todhunter (100 butterfly).
Also competing from Section 4 are Mary Edwards of Horseheads (200 IM), three relay teams from Owego, eighth-grader Samantha Suer from Chenango Forks (50 free, 100 butterfly), Jamie Zielinski of Owego (100 butterfly), Katarina Chang of Owego and MacKenzie Moss of Chenango Valley (diving), Emily Smith of CV and Devon McFadden of Owego (100 butterly, 100 backstroke) and Nicole Petta of Union-Endicott (100 breaststroke).
None of the local swimmers is seeded among the top 20 competitors in their respective events; only diver Bonniwell is among the favorites, based on seedings. Just a freshman, she enters the meet with a qualifying score of 460.55 points, the fourth-highest total among the 22 entered. Last year, she placed seventh with a score of 426.80.
Among the swimmers to watch will be senior Brittany Friese of Newburgh (Section 9), who is scheduled to defend her state titles in both the 200 and 500 freestyles. She won the 200 in 1 minute, 49.82 seconds and the 500 in 4:52.07, both slightly faster than her qualifying times this year. Ithaca’s Cecile Browning was sixth in the 500 free last year, in 5:02.25.
Olivia Chan of Sewanhaka (Section 8) will defend her title in the 200 individual medley; she’s seeded second to Julie Samson of Shenendehowa (Section 2), who finished fifth last year. She’s also the defending champion in the 100 breaststroke, and is the top seed in that event entering the weekend
Senior Kina Zhou of Niskayuna (Sect. 2) is slated to defend her title in the 100 free. She was also runner-up to Friese in the 200 free a year ago, and is seeded second behind Friese in that event.
Lansing’s Ferris sneaked in this year with a qualifying time of 5:14.47, just below the qualifying standard of 5:14.65. That was nearly a half-second tougher than last year’s qualifying requirement of 5:15.05. Several events have tougher qualifying standards this year than last; in fact, of the 12 events, only the 200 IM (2:12.84), the 100 butterfly (1:00.02) and the 100 breaststroke (1:08.60) have unchanged qualifying times.
Ithaca swimmers have a history of success. The state records in the 200 medley, 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relays are held by IHS teams from the mid-2000s, which featured the Norberg sisters (Lindsey and Lauren), Nicole Heise, Logan Todhunter, Caitlin Nicholson, Emily Peck and Kailey Gardner. Lindsey Norberg also holds the state and meet record of 1:02.43 in the 100 breaststroke, which she set in 2006.