Women’s Head Swim Coach Scott Whitbeck has a list of things to be proud of. Whitbeck’s team took home second place at the conference championships on Feb. 11. The Lady Hawks went 5-3 this season and were rewarded at the SUNYACs by finishing behind only SUNY Geneseo.
“The girls definitely make me look good,” said Whitbeck. “The girls won 12 events at the meet, four of which were relays and eight individuals. Six different individuals won an event which…I don’t know the history, but that has to be a record.”
With the 12 event wins, the women’s team finished the weekend with 664.5 points, leaving them in second. Along with the second-place finish, the women’s team set three new school records during the first night alone. They set more records during the second night, including one in the 200 medley relay and the 400 individual medley which was won by first-year student Chelsea Allocco, someone who Whitbeck said stood out this season. He went on to say that with these times, Allocco earned herself NCAA consideration.
Second-year student Yuka Suzuka won both the 100 and 200 meter backstroke events last year and defended her title for a consecutive season.
Suzuka was also a member of the record-setting 200 medley relay, along with fourth-year Becky Baker, third-year Christine Rieth and second-year Carly Marshall. The girls won the relay with a time of 1:46.44. Not only is this a SUNY New Paltz record, but it also serves as a SUNYAC meet record.
Whitbeck said that the 200 medley relay team is currently fifth in the country, while the 400 free relay is ranked sixth and the 400 medley relay team is ranked seventh. The three relay teams are all in contention for going forward to the NCAA Division III championships, with the 200 medley relay having the best chance at making it that far.
The women’s team will have many members leaving them at the close of this season. Not only will the team lose both captains, fourth-year students Marissa Morris and Allison Wells, but they will also lose Baker, Jessica Lester, Kate Genovese and Lori Brown to graduation. While the team has some very accomplished younger swimmers, Whitbeck knows the loss of so many players could affect the team.
“There’s no replacement for Becky in breaststroke yet,” said Whitbeck. “Katina Lown is a sophomore and she will probably step in as our best sprint breaststroker…We have to find a breaststroker to replace there. Our 400 free medley was three seniors and a junior, so we have a lot of work to do there. Hopefully people will be stepping up into those roles.”
While the team will lose a significant amount of fourth-year students, Whitbeck has already started recruiting and has hope that they will get some talented bodies to increase the depth of the team, something he believes cost them the title.
“We’ve already had three commitments on the girl’s side and I feel pretty good about where we are, and I’ve had some great help from my swimmers and my assistant coaches, so I’m feeling pretty optimistic,” said Whitbeck.
The Lady Hawks left the meet with many accolades, but the biggest reward of the weekend came from an e-mail sent personally to coach Whitbeck.
“I got an e-mail from Art Stockin, one of the previous coaches who is in the school Hall of Fame as a coach from 1966-94, saying that it was ‘the most impressive relay performance by a New Paltz Hawk team. The women’s team was truly amazing.’”
The Lady Hawks are waiting to hear if they will be travelling to Tennessee for the NCAA Division III championships.