Hawks Soar at NCAA Championships

Photo By Robin Weinstein

Five swimmers on the Women’s Swim team qualified for the 2013 NCAA Division III Swimming & Diving Championships, the most athletes to qualify in program history.

Fourth-year back and IM swimmer Yuka Suzuka and third-year captain and distance free swimmer Chelsea Allocco swam individual events while third-year Victoria Scalise, fourth-year Carly Marshall, second-year Colleen Stewart and Suzuka swam the 400 medley relay.

Each swimmer left Shenandoah, Texas with an All-America Honorable Mention distinction.

New Paltz finished the 400 medley relay in 15th place with a time of 3:53.96 while Allocco placed 16th in the 1,650 freestyle with a time of 17:21.54 to receive her distinction.

Head Coach Scott Whitbeck said he is happy with the results and the experience his swimmers gained at a national meet.

“I’m happy that we took five swimmers and we all five went home as All-Americans,” Whitbeck said. “It’s great that we scored points, we finished in the top 50 in the country, we had great representation at nationals, we learned a lot and we have a group that can compete next year.”

Scalise said preparation for the meet required the swimmers to taper, which is difficult to do after it was already performed for SUNYACs. The short time between the meets made it even more difficult to build up intensity and rest again.

Allocco was the only distance swimmer competing for New Paltz, so training became an individual event.

“For the most part, I was training by myself because I was the only distance person going,” Allocco said. “I did a lot of self-motivation and pushing myself, which is not something I’ve always been good at. So it was hard to get through the really rough weeks like the building back up on my own.”

Whitbeck said although a goal of the program is to develop swimmers to compete at the national championships, this is not the goal for every swimmer on the team.

“Making this meet is extraordinary,” Whitbeck said. “You have to be a great swimmer to be here but it’s great that we continue to develop. And the people that are getting to the meet, especially Chelsea, she didn’t come in as someone who you said ‘hey, this girl is definitely going to be at nationals.’ She’s dropped time, she’s gotten better —which is exciting for our program.”

Suzuka, who earned an honorable mention for All-America status last season and captured her third All-America status this year, said she wasn’t happy with her results but is glad that this year’s meet ended with success for all of her teammates. Going to nationals with her friends made the events more fun, she said.

“I was really happy to achieve this with everyone,” Suzuka said. “Last year, I got it alone and was happy, but it is really different when four of us got it together with all our strength.”

Whitbeck said this meet illustrates the improvement of not only the SUNY New Paltz swim program but of the entire SUNYAC conference as well.

“It was actually a year where the SUNYAC in general has brought 19 women to the meet, which is the largest they’ve ever brought, so our conference is getting more competitive,” he said. “It’s one of the exciting things in terms of our school too. We’re getting faster.”

Looking ahead, Allocco hopes to get more swimmers to the NCAAs so they can secure assigned seats. If a school brings 10 swimmers to the meet, they each receive assigned seats and have a greater chance of boosting team morale, Allocco said.

“I would really like to basically get more girls to go,” Allocco said. “I’d like to get a couple of guys to go if possible. It would be so much more of a team accomplishment as opposed to an individual accomplishment if we could get more people to go.”