North Country Invitational: Potsdam women pull out third-place finish by a fingernail; Zimmerman rules men's breaststroke


In its largest hosted event of the season, the SUNY Potsdam men's and women's swimming and diving teams welcomed in squads from seven other schools during the two-day North Country Invitational Friday and Saturday at Maxcy Hall Pool.

It was SUNY Oneonta State's meet for the taking though as the Red Dragons swept both the men's and women's team competition.  Other teams who competed were Clarkson University, Colby-Sawyer College, Alfred State College, Monroe Community College, Saint Michael's and Paul Smith's College (men only).

The Bears demonstrated solid competitive balance throughout as senior Richie Zimmerman (Victor, N.Y. / Victor) won the men's 100-yard breaststroke event in 1:01 flat to spearhead Potsdam's first day of the meet.  The Bears earned at least a top-three finish in eight other events on the day.

Zimmerman once again lead the charge on day two and continued his steady pace for Potsdam as he took the 200-yard breaststroke in 2:15.66 and then teamed with sophomore Ty Zapisek (Syracuse, N.Y. / West Genesee), junior Dan Costa (Spencerport, N.Y. / Spencerport) and freshman Ricky Blackburn (Cicero, N.Y. / Cicero-North Syracuse) for a third-place spot in the 200 medley relay.

"Later on in the year, I'll be several seconds faster," Zimmerman said. "I felt better today than I did yesterday.  I think I got a better night of sleep.  [In the 200 breaststroke} the third 50 yards is when I pulled ahead and was almost a full second ahead of him [SUNY Oneonta's Joseph Galan] and then he leveled off."

Zimmerman and Galan went head-to-head in last year's North Country Invitational with Galan taking the individual medley and Zimmerman winning the breaststroke event.

Zimmerman, now the top seed for both the 100 and 200 breaststroke events in SUNYAC will look to improve his butterfly stroke so that he can challenge for the individual medley events.

"I'm hoping that once I start to taper,  I'll be faster now," Zimmerman said. "My main goal is to take a couple more schools records and go to Nationals.  It should be  pretty attainable.  A sub 2:00 time in the 200 breaststroke is the A cut, but I think around 2:03 will qualify."

Swapping in and out of the third and fourth place positions during the meet with Monroe Community College on the men's side and Colby-Sawyer on the women's side in team scores, Potsdam closed strong to secure third place positions for both teams through a second-and final-day of competition.

The Potsdam women narrowly topped Colby-Sawyer for third place by a total of 285 to 284 while the Potsdam men outlasted Monroe Community College by a margin of 269.5 to 254.5.

"I thought we did a bit better on the second day," said Potsdam coach Ken McLaughlin.  "We had a disqualification on the first day [with our men's relay team] by jumping early into the pool.  So I know what we have to work on to get better."

Zapisek picked up a runners' up finish in the 50-yard freestyle (22.54) and then came in third place in the men's 100-yard butterfly (55.30) on Friday.  During Saturday's races, Zapisek was also third in the 100 freestyle (48.79).

Zimmerman and Zapisek joined up with junior Dan Costa (Spencerport, N.Y. / Spencerport) and freshman Ricky Blackburn (Cicero, N.Y. / Cicero-North Syracuse) to place second in the men's 200-yard freestyle relay by clocking in at 1:29.78 and then wound up in third in the 200 medley relay (1:40.86).

The team was one-half second behind the pace set by Clarkson University's foursome of sophomore Sam Zagrobelny, juniors Kyle Hancock and Al Catano and freshman Chris Bay in the freestyle relay.

On the women's side, freshman Kristin Canjura (Wilton, N.Y. / Saratoga Springs) stretched out over a long distance time of 19:06.32 to take second in the 1,650-yard freestyle event.  The event was additionally beneficial for Potsdam as junior teammate Victoria Blakeslee (Gloversville, N.Y. / Gloversville) rounded up a fourth-place spot at 19:28.18.  The pair's strong finish gave the Potsdam women 24 points toward their score.

Other three-place finishes were accomplished by the women's 400 medley relay team (4:24.25) that included Emily Kanoza (Syracuse, N.Y. / West Genesee), Ghena Binzer (Baldwinsville, N.Y. / C.W. Baker), Laurissa Coombs (Port Jefferson, N.Y. / Ward Melville) and Jennifer Yeager (Greene, N.Y. / Greene).

Coombs also took third in the 200 individual medley (2:22.22) as well as Costa in the men's 200 backstroke (2:04.70) and 100 backstroke (56.30) and Zimmerman in the 200 individual medley (2:03.84). 

Potsdam will jump back into the pool for competition from Dec. 6-8 at the SUNY Fredonia Invite.  Each day begins at 1 p.m.

Link to complete results: