Bears eye school records, conference titles at SUNYAC championships


The SUNYAC Swimming and Diving Championships are set to make waves at Erie Community College's Flickinger Aquatic Center in Buffalo.

Competition begins Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. for divers while swimmers will take their marks from the starting block beginning on Thursday.  The championships run Friday and Saturday as well with swimming and diving preliminaries beginning at 10:00 a.m. each day followed by the event finals each evening starting at 6:00 p.m.

The top 16 individual times for each swimming event will tabulate points toward the team's overall score.

Nine SUNYAC institutions will take part in the championships with the SUNY Cortland men and the SUNY Geneseo women looking to defend their titles.

What Bears watching

100 Breaststroke:  Senior team captain Richie Zimmerman (Victor, N.Y. / Victor) will be vying for the SUNYAC title and school record in the men's 100-meter breast stroke.

The Bears have won back-to-back in the breaststroke and hope to make it a triple crown with Zimmerman.  Zimmerman has the best time as of now with 59.82, but it will not be an easy task as Geneseo's Kenneth Athans and Cortland's Jack Jakubek both put up top times as well.

Alexander Taylor holds the Potsdam record in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 57.61.

200 Breaststroke:  This had been Taylor's event as he won it each of the past two seasons, but now that he has graduated it has become a certainty that there will be a new champion.

Newcomer Adam Clouthier of SUNY Fredonia has the best time this year with a time of 2:14.  SUNY Cortland freshman Adam Opsahl is right behind Clouthier with a time of 2:14.85.  Zimmerman hopes to follow in his old teammates footsteps and win both events.

School records to watch
Zimmerman also set school records in the 400-meter individual medley (4:10.11) in the 2013 SUNYAC Championships and was a member of the 400-meter medley relay team (3:30.68) and 400 freestyle relay teams (3:10.98) that set best program marks.

In the relay events, Zimmerman will once again be joined by sophomore Tyler Zapisek (Syracuse, N.Y.  / West Genesee) and junior Dan Costa (Spencerport, N.Y. / Spencerport).  Taylor, who graduated, will be replaced by freshman Ricky Blackburn (Cicero, N.Y. / Cicero-North Syracuse).

Zapisek is the current school record holder in the 100 butterfly at 51.65.

School records to watch

Junior Victoria Blakeslee (Gloversville, N.Y. / Gloversville) and junior Emily Kanoza (Syracuse, N.Y. / West Genesee) have interchangeably teamed with freshmen Stephanie Havens (Oneonta, N.Y. / Oneonta) and Jennifer Yeager (Greene, N.Y. / Greene) or Rachel Malzacher (Chester, N.Y. / Monroe-Woodbury) to compete in the women's 400 freestyle relay.

Blakeslee and Kanoza are two of the four members to hold the school record in the event with a time of 3:46.43.

Seniors Ghena Binzer (Baldwinsville, N.Y. / C. W. Baker) and Laurissa Coombs (Port Jefferson, N.Y. / Ward Melville) have teamed many times this season with Kanoza and Havens in the 200 medley relay.

Blakeslee and Binzer are two of the four remaining members to take best school marks in the 200 medley relay (1:53.45) and the 400 medley relay (4:08.50).

"We do have more swimmers [to compete and do well in the relays] so it's weird to have so many options,"  Blakeslee said.

"So we're not really sure who's going to be until the day of the race so it can be nerve racking. We're trying to figure out who can swim the butterfly, backstroke and freestyle because we can all do it so we are constantly alternating spots.  It's really whoever does best at the meet."

When the Potsdam women's team set a new school record in the 400 free relay, Blakeslee said it wasn't until after the race that the team realized they had set a new benchmark.

"Some people taper extremely well," Blakeslee said.  "When you dive in, everything is a blur.  Our coach [Ken McLaughlin] told us to put blinders on like a horse and stay in your lane. Everybody is screaming and you can't really hear anything.  You're just hoping that you don't DQ and you get to that wall.  I was too excited about the times to know that we had done it."

Individual best team records include Blakeslee in the 1650 free (18:28.31) and Binzer in the 100 breast (1:10.16).

Ghena Binzer will compete in the 100 and 200 breast stroke and 200 and 400 medley relay.

"For me individually, I want to break those marks in those events," Binzer said.

Blakeslee, Canjura, Coombs and Yeager will be attempting to knock down the long-standing 800-yard free relay, but it is a record that has stood since the 1980s.

But, if the Bears have anything in their favor this season, it's been a high team morale.

"Everybody is like a best friend to one another," Binzer said.  "We have a lot of good friends on the team and it's really nice to have everybody cheering for us.  One of our freshman guys said that he didn't get a lot of cheering his way in high school because they knew he was going to win.  But, we're here cheering him on and it boosts everybody's confidence."

Ticket information
Tickets will be sold at the door for both prelims and finals each day. The cost is $6 per adult and $3 for children ages 6-12. SUNYAC college students with ID and kids five and under are free. All-sessions passes will also be made available at the door. An adult pass is $30 and is good for all six sessions (prelims and finals). Included with the pass will be one heat sheet for each session. A child pass is $15 and good for all six sessions (prelims and finals). No heat sheet will be included with this pass.