Sectional relays a chemistry test

Lockport, Grand Island ranked 1-2 in 200-, 400-yard freestyles

News Sports Reporter
John Hickey/Buffalo News
Lockport's 200- and 400-yard freestyle relay team, from left: Steve O'Har, Ryan Rimmer, Kyle Smith and Kris Fisher, broke league and pool records at Saturday's NFL meet at Niagara Falls.


Kenmore East's Kevin O'Donnell won the sectional 100 breaststroke last year.


Mark Mulville/Buffalo News
Clarence's Travis Martinez enters the sectionals with the fastest times in the 200 IM, 100 free and 500 free.


At no point in a swimming meet does a natatorium get louder than during the relays. The whistles and screaming are a celebration of team in what is accepted as an individual sport.

"I've never had a great swimmer who didn't swim their fastest on a relay," said Orchard Park coach Art Aungst. "For some reason they get pumped up and go."

That excitement will be felt at the 52nd annual Section VI Championships being held Thursday through Saturday at Clarence. Niagara Falls will host the diving with all 11 dives taking place Friday.

No school prides itself more on its relays than Orchard Park. The Quakers are the current Section VI record holders in all three. Aungst knows all about putting winning relays together, having coached nine state championship relay teams as the Lady Quakers coach.

"It's always determined by who the four fastest are, but there's got to be a chemistry there, people have to be willing to work together, people have to be more interested in the team than individual events," he said. "We've always been blessed with a lot of those people. They just feed off the energy."

The sectional meet is also a qualifier for the 45th New York State Championships March 4-5 at the Nassau County Aquatic Center on Long Island.

This year the relay titles are shaping into a battle of Niagara Frontier League teams. Lockport and Grand Island enter sectionals ranked 1-2 locally in the 200- and 400-yard free relays.

Lockport's foursome of Steve O'Har, Ryan Rimmer, Kyle Smith and Kris Fisher broke league and pool records in the 200 and 400 free relays at Saturday's NFL meet at Niagara Falls.

Grand Island boasts the fastest time in Western New York in the 200 medley relay as Jordan Stickl, Adam Salemi, Rob Rumsey and Mike Seay lowered it to 1:40.77 Saturday. All three relay teams have broken the GI pool records this season.

Salemi will swim all three relays at sectionals as well as the 100 breaststroke. He believes that relay results in the pool come from the drive of each swimmer. He said he's been swimming with Rumsey since they were in third grade, and that bonds like that enhance everyone's performance in the pool.

Rumsey said part of his incentive as a relay swimmer is not wanting to let his teammates down. "Everything has to do with pride. You definitely have to commit to a relay. Everyone has to do their part," he said. "It's really a different feeling when your school can put together a strong relay team."

Seay spent his freshman and sophomore years at McKinley before transferring to GI. His brother, Tommy, who rewrote the Buffalo Public School records while at McKinley, is a senior at Ohio State.

Clarence is hoping to win the 400 free relay for the fourth year in a row. A win should cap a big meet for junior Travis Martinez. Martinez, who won the 500 free as a sophomore, is ranked in the area's top 10 in all eight events. He enters sectionals with the fastest times in the 200 IM (2:00.84), the 100 free (48.39) and the 500 free (4:54.26).

The sectional field includes two swimmers who won individual titles last year: senior Brad Kozlowski of North Tonawanda in the 500 free (4:56.41) and senior Kevin O'Donnell of Kenmore East in the 100 breaststroke (1:00.84).

Kozlowski has changed course this year and won't swim the 500. Instead he's entered in the 50 free, 100 fly and two relays.

"We had a new coach this year and he changed a few things around. My sprinting turned out to be a little better than the distance stuff," said Kozlowski, who has signed with Canisius College. "It's total different (training), but interesting."

Kozlowski is coming off career-best swims in the 50 free (22:15) and 100 fly (53:33) at the NFL meet. O'Donnell enters sectionals with the fastest time in the breast at 1:01.78.

Several boys from the Niagara-Orleans coed League qualified for sectionals. League champion Albion (15-0) qualified senior Matt Saeva, junior Chad Brooks, junior Colin Wilbert, junior Brent Davis, sophomore Steve Blake, freshman Aaron Wagner and eighth-grader Jonathan Beabout.

Joe's sends six

Swimmers from the Monsignor Martin Association are busy tapering for the New York State March 3-5 on Long Island. The athletes earned berths by meeting a qualifying time.

St. Joe's qualified a record six swimmers, including Angelo Ciraolo, Matt Ehmann, Chris Hogan, his twin brother, Paul, Jeff Papia and John Songin.

For the past two years, Chris Hogan has been named Most Outstanding Swimmer of the All-Catholic meet. He's got the second-fastest time in Western New York in the 500 free (4:54.81) and the 100 back (55.20).

Canisius, winner of All-Catholic title for the third year in a row, qualified Jake Kwapiszeski (200 IM), Caleb Otto (100 breast) and Dan Donnarumma (100 back). St. Francis will send Jason Frydrychowski (100 back).