For Horseheads swimmer Patrick Leslie, merely reaching the state meet last year was a big accomplishment. As a first-time state competitor, Leslie qualified for the 100-yard freestyle and finished 39th.
Now a two-time sectional champion, the senior returns to the Rochester area this weekend with high expectations as a mid-pack seed in two individual events.
“I’ve never really seen a lot of kids go to the state meet in their first year and really do extremely well,” Horseheads coach Jared Zembek said. “It takes experience to swim at that level, and I think he is ready to really show what he’s got this year.”
Leslie will lead a strong contingent of 10 Elmira-Corning area athletes who will compete in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Boys Swimming and Diving Championships at the Webster Aquatic Center.
The meet begins Friday with prelims and diving and concludes Saturday with swimming finals. The top eight swimmers in the prelims qualify for the championship finals, with the next eight going to the consolation finals, and swimmers in spots 17-24 moving to the bonus finals.
Leslie enters this year’s state meet a stronger swimmer, having qualified nearly a second faster in the 100 freestyle and making the 200 yard freestyle for the first time. Leslie is seeded 17th in the 200 freestyle and 19th in the 100 freestyle.
“He really worked hard during practices and in the weight room to get where he’s at,” Zembek said. “He’s really shooting to make it definitely to the consolation finals, but he’s going to try to get to the top eight this year for finals. I think he can do it if he has some smart, hard swims.”
Leslie also qualified in the 50 freestyle, but state meet rules limit swimmers to two individual events.
He will join Blue Raiders teammates Kenyon Winkky, Chris Bankaitis and Zane Elsisi in the 200 medley relay, an event they barely qualified for by equaling the state requirement of 1 minute, 40.67 seconds.
“This is the first relay team we’ve had go in a long time,” Zembek said. “There are a lot of teams ahead of them, but they are going to try to sneak in and be in at least the top 24.”
Corning is sending four swimmers to the meet. Senior Devin Li is in his third consecutive state meet and will compete in the 100 breaststroke, where he is seeded 39th. Senior Peter Behan is making his second consecutive appearance and will compete in the 50 freestyle as the 24th seed and the 100 freestyle as the 25th seed.
Li qualified for the bonus final in breaststroke in 2013, finishing 23rd. Behan also qualified for the bonus final in the 100 freestyle and was 21st.
Hawks sophomore Reid Cagir is making his first state appearance and will compete in the 100 freestyle as the 39th seed. Li, Behan, Cagir and senior Mitch Gonta will team up to compete in the 200 yard freestyle relay, where they are seeded 34th.
Odessa-Montour senior Chris Husted qualified for his first state meet in the 50 and 100 freestyles, where he is 32nd and 38th, respectively. Waverly sophomore Josh Mastrantuono will compete in the100 yard breaststroke as the 28th seed.
Section 4 will also be represented by eight Ithaca swimmers led by senior All-American Ryan Nicholson, the defending state champion in the 100 butterfly. The Duke University-bound swimmer is the top seed in both the butterfly and the 50 freestyle.
“Ithaca’s got a bunch of top swimmers, so we’re excited to see what we can do (as a section) this year,” Zembek said. “I think over the last few years, our section has gotten a lot stronger and has done much better at the state meet as opposed to years past.”