Before the season, Ithaca High junior Ryan Nicholson had a definite goal in mind for swim season, which came to an end Saturday at the state meet.
He achieved his goal — and then some.
“It was his goal to be state champ in the 100 butterfly,” Ithaca coach Mike Blakely-Armitage said. “The state record was something nobody expected.”
That includes Nicholson himself, but he added to his own growing legend by winning the event in 48.30 seconds, eclipsing the mark of 48.37 set four years ago by Thomas Luchsinger of Mt. Sinai. Nicholson’s day also included a runner-up finish in the 200 individual medley in 1:51.99. Ryan Gordon of Shenendehowa won in 1:49.89. Gordon later earned the title in the 100 backstroke (49.40).
“I was pretty ecstatic and surprised,” Nicholson said, referring to the moment when he saw the clock and realized the 100 fly record was his. “I give a lot of credit to my teammates, and to my weightlifting this year. I’ve definitely gained some weight and some muscle mass, which has helped.”
“We were ecstatic when he won,” Blakely-Armitage said, “but then there’s that pause, when races are so close and everyone’s trying to look at record board. There was like a half-second pause, and then eruption when we realized what he had just done. It was amazing, and a great feeling for him. I’m so happy for him.”
It was the cherry on top of a highlight-filled day for the Little Red, which placed in two Nicholson-led relays and got a solid finish from another foursome.
After his record-setting butterfly victory, Nicholson made more history in helping the Little Red finish second in the 200 freestyle relay, in 1:25.93. His leadoff time, 20.49, broke by .01 seconds his day-old sectional record in the 50 freestyle. Nicholson closed the meet by helping Ithaca take fifth in the 400 freestyle relay, in 3:11.18. Both relay times met the All-America Consideration standard.
Early in the day, the Little Red’s 200 medley relay foursome of Dave Miller, Kyle Markwardt, Francis Schickel and Will Fisher finished 13th, in a time of 1:39.20.
“It was a great day, it exceeded our expectations as coaches and swimmers,” Blakely-Armitage said Sunday. “And one of the bigger things, I thought, was that our 200 medley relay finished 13th. It was definitely our weaker relay, but I’m really proud of those guys for stepping up. It’s a real testament to the depth on our team that they can achieve that without Ryan. It’s a big confidence booster.”
Also for Ithaca, freshman Kevin Miller placed 16th in the 500 freestyle (4:46.08). Lansing’s Joe Koch, also a freshman, was 10th in the same event (4:40.93).
Blakely-Armitage credited his two volunteer assistant coaches, Drew Hilker and Paul Ruane, along with strength and conditioning coach Gary Hunter with helping his team achieve success this season.
“My staff does a phenomenal job, they’re very dedicated,” Blakely-Armitage said. “And Gary, who’s the throwing coach for the track team, helps us out a lot with our strength program.”
Nicholson said he’s scheduled to compete in the Speedo Sectionals meet later this month in Virginia, then he will take some time off before resuming training over the summer.