The Ithaca High boys swim team will be well-represented this weekend at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships at the Webster Aquatic Center.
Nine Little Red swimmers, including alternates, will be at the Rochester-area facility for the meet, including junior Ryan Nicholson, who’s seeded first in two events and has a great chance to bring home multiple gold medals.
“Ryan’s goal all season has been to be a state champion, it’s something he’s wanted to do,” Ithaca coach Mike Blakely-Armitage said earlier this week. “Last year, he was second in the 100 butterfly, and he saw how close he was to winning and he got a taste for it.”
Nicholson set Section 4 records in the 200-yard individual medley (1 minute, 53.75 seconds) and 100 freestyle (45.97) and helped Ithaca to victories in the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays at sectionals on Feb. 16. He will swim the 200 IM and 100 butterfly at states, and will also lead off Ithaca’s 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays, which are seeded 19th and third, respectively.
Nicholson said he’s been cutting back on his training in anticipation of the biggest meet of the season, and said he’s ready for a big day on Saturday.
“I’m hoping to get either first or second in the 200 IM and win the 100 fly,” he said. “And in the relays, we have a good chance of getting top-three in both. I feel much better than I did heading into sectionals, we’ve been lowering our yardage (in practice), and I feel pretty good. It sets us up for a good meet.”
Nicholson has section records in six of 11 swimming events, including 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 and has qualified for states this season in every event except the 100 breaststroke, which he did not swim.
Blakely-Armitage acknowledges that Nicholson is a “very gifted athlete,” but adds that the talent pool at Ithaca doesn’t begin and end with him. The rest of Ithaca’s contingent heading to Webster — including Kevin Miller, Francis Schickel, Dave Miller, Kyle Markwardt, Will Fisher, Nathan Bach and Avery Bodenstein — has been good, and at times dominant.
“The team as a whole is very good, and we were dominant at sectionals,” he said, referring to the fact that Ithaca swimmers won seven of 11 events at the Class A meet and scored 541 points, beating runner-up Corning by 195.
“(Nicholson) takes the group to another level,” he said, “but all the guys are gifted, all work hard, all are special in their own right and deserve to be there too.”
Three other Ithaca athletes will compete in individual events. Freshman Kevin Miller will swim the 200 and 500 freestyles, and freshman Schickel and senior Fisher will both swim the 100 freestyle.
In addition to the large Ithaca contingent, Section 4 will feature a pair of Lansing athletes — freshman Joseph Koch in the 200 and 500 freestyles, and junior Ronan Corgel in the 200 IM and 100 backstroke.
Among Section 4’s other hopefuls are Horseheads senior Mike Klugo (seeded 11th in both the 100 and 200 freestyles) and Binghamton’s Deyon Godbay (seeded fourth in 1-meter diving).