Ithaca junior Ryan Nicholson was clearly the star of the show Saturday morning at the Section 4 Class A boys swimming championships at Owego Free Academy, but there were also some memorable supporting performances.
Swimmers from Elmira, Horseheads and Corning all won sectional titles in a meet that saw Nicholson perhaps cement his status as the best all-around swimmer in Section 4 history.
Nicholson set Section 4 records in the 200-yard individual medley (1:53.75) and 100 freestyle (45.97), in addition to helping Ithaca to victories in the 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay.
He now has section records in six of 11 swimming events, adding Saturday to previous marks in the 200 freestyle (1:42.18) and 100 butterfly (50.15). He is also part of the two fastest freestyle relay teams in Section 4 history.
Just as impressive, Nicholson has qualified for the New York state championships this season in every event except the 100 breaststroke, which he didn’t swim in a meet.
“He’s just that type of athlete,” Ithaca coach Mike Blakely-Armitage said. “You put him in any event and he swims really well. At the high school level and club level, he’s phenomenal.”
Nicholson’s effort helped the Little Red claim its third section title in the last four seasons and second straight. Ithaca finished with 541 points, while the announcement of Corning’s second-place finish with 346 brought a loud roar from the Hawks. Vestal took third, Horseheads fourth and Elmira sixth out of seven teams.
Corning junior Devin Li won the 100 breaststroke and teammate Peter Behan, also a junior, captured the 50 freestyle. Both broke team records.
Also victorious were Horseheads senior Mike Klugo in the 200 freestyle and Elmira senior Dominic Parfianowicz in the 100 backstroke.
Li, Behan, Klugo, Parfianowicz, Horseheads junior Patrick Leslie (100 freestyle) and Corning’s second-place 200 freestyle relay of Henry Towery, Jared Faber, Li and Behan (1:29.96) will join Nicholson and others at the New York State Championships on March 1 and 2 at Webster Schroeder High School in the Rochester area.
Behan will compete at states in three events (50 freestyle, 100 freestyle and 200 free relay). Klugo will compete in both the 100 and 200 freestyles, with Parfianowicz qualifying in the 50 freestyle earlier this season. His winning backstroke time left him shy of qualifying in that event for the third straight year.
Li won the breaststroke in 59.87 seconds, putting him almost three seconds ahead of runner-up Noah Frostclapp of Ithaca. Li went under 1 minute for the first time.
“Honestly, that was a pretty bad race for me technically,” said Li, who also qualified for states last season. “I probably did every possible thing wrong on my turns, but it just felt so good when I was racing. I wasn’t surprised when I looked up at the scoreboard and saw that time.”
Behan broke his own team record in the 50 freestyle with his prelim swim of 22.06 on Wednesday, then won Saturday in 21.99.
“I’ve been thinking about it for the last week or so. Going into the race I was certainly pumped up,” Behan said. “When I went into the turn, actually I missed the wall. That slowed me down a lot. It pushed me to go faster. My main goal was to go 21 (seconds) and when I finished and looked up at the time — 21.99 — I was extremely excited.”
Behan was later part of a 100 freestyle final that saw five swimmers eclipse the state standard of 48.94. Nicholson won in his section record 45.97, followed by Klugo in 47.64, Behan in 48.44, Leslie in 48.53 and Will Fisher of Ithaca in 48.81.
“The biggest names in Section 4 were in that race — Mike and Ryan,” Behan said. “I look up to those guys. Swimming next to them is a great opportunity to swim well. Unfortunately, I didn’t swim as well as I could have. I didn’t take it out fast enough. And I was tired from the 50, but in the end I was happy.”
So was Leslie, who needed Saturday’s time to qualify for states for the first time.
“I am very excited,” Leslie said. “I was talking with my coach (Friday) night and he said that all I needed to do was make sure that I break 24 (seconds) on the first 50 and then I can do it.”
Klugo won by nearly three seconds in the 200 freestyle, posting the fastest time (1:44.43) of a career that included trips to states the previous two seasons.
“It was really exciting because I knew that I was seeded first,” Klugo said. “I was excited to come in and just do what I had to do. … I was very happy with my time because that’s the fastest I’ve ever gone. It was my goal to get down to a time in the 1:44 range, so I was really, really excited with that.”
Parfianowicz will focus on the 50 freestyle after his time of 55.67 in the backstroke left him off the state standard of 54.82. He took sixth in the 100 freestyle in 49.34.
“I trained all year the last three years for it, but I guess it didn’t work out for me,” he said. “You can’t get too depressed over it. I’m just going to look forward from here.
“I’m excited for the (50 freestyle). I think I’m a sprinter, so hopefully I’ll do well.”
Nicholson broke former teammate John Nord’s two-year-old Section 4 record of 1:54.22 in the IM with his effort of 1:53.75. Later in the meet, he topped the 100 freestyle record of 46.11 set in 1983 by Kevin Nagy of Horseheads.
“I was really happy because I’m not really tapered for this meet or rested, and I haven’t shaved,” Nicholson said. “So I was happy with my swims. I dropped like a second in my 200 IM and half a second in my 100 free. And I think I’m first in both of them in the state.”
Nicholson finished second in the 100 butterfly at least year’s state meet, but he didn’t swim that event Saturday. He will swim in the butterfly at states, along with the individual medley and both freestyle relays.