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BOYS SWIMMING: Sica shines for Grand Island

Vikings senior hits state cut in final chance at sectionals.

By Nate Beutel
Greater Niagara Newspapers

GRAND ISLAND Pressure. Its a term often overused in sports, especially at the high school level.

At the same time, though, its easy to see where the term comes into play. Take for instance the situation in which Grand Island swimmer James Sica was entrenched in a few weeks back. The senior had come so close to qualifying for the New York state meet in the 100-yard breaststroke throughout the regular season. He was just fractions of seconds away from the state cut, but he still hadnt been able to accomplish the mark as the annual Section VI Championships arrived.

I was thinking Id qualify for states a lot earlier in the season, Sica said. I was kind of waiting for it to happen.

Sica, who came down with flu-like symptoms just days prior to sectionals, swam his preliminary heat in a time of 1:04.4 well off the state mark of 1:03.42. But then as Sica came back to the pool the next day for the finals, which he was among one of the last qualifiers for, he began to realize what was at stake.

I dont want to let all the hard work I did go to waste, Sica remembers telling himself. This is my last chance.

And it would turn out to be a last chance to remember as Sica swam a blistering 1:02.8 to finish third in the finals and earn his first berth in the state meet. For GI coach Rob Collard the key to the race was Sicas confidence in his original gameplan despite the big stage and illness.

To achieve a state cut, you have to get out to a decent level in the first 50 and then finish strong and not fade in the final 50, Collard explained. I think the last 50 was a lot of guts for James, but I give him a lot of credit for doing it in what couldve been possibly the last race of his high school career.

So did Sica ever have any doubts that he would achieve the time?

I always thought I would do it, he said with a big smile.

That kind of attitude has turned into a staple for the Grand Island boys swim program under the direction of Collard the last five years or so. Despite annually having some of the smallest numbers in the entire Niagara Frontier League, GI always seems to produce some of the top competitors in the area, especially come seasons end.

We focus a lot on goal-setting, Collard said. We put a lot of emphasis on trying to perform to those goals you set. Its all a progression from year-to-year.

In Sicas case, the goal of making the state meet was established years ago as a freshman and it finally came to fruition.

Im very happy for him that it worked out the way it did, Collard said. Hes worked toward his goal for a long time and hes put in the time, so Im proud of him.

Sica, who would like to continue his swimming career at either Geneseo or Colgate, said hes not focused on a certain time or finish at this weekend state meet but rather just to have a blast during his final days as a high school swimmer.

Its kind of like a reward for all the hard work I put in, so I just want to have fun and do my best, he said. Im looking forward to racing again, though.