With their eye on the SUNYAC Championship, the SUNY New Paltz Women’s Swimming team won the six-team Skidmore Sprint Invitational.
The Lady Hawks won the Saturday, Feb. 1 invitational with a score of 580 points, towering over the competition with Vassar coming in second with 384 points.
After this final lap before the championships, Head Swimming Coach Scott Whitbeck called the Sprint Invitational a “final tune-up” for the team to see how they were progressing and to gage where they were heading.
“We’re starting to come together as a team,” Whitbeck said. “Our focus is all about training. It’s all about the end of the season, the championships and how we do. I think we’re starting to get closer to where we want to be.”
The Lady Hawks beat Mount Saint Mary College 125-52 on Jan. 24 in their final home meet of the season, and again against SUNY Oneonta, 110-95, in a dual meet on Jan. 25. Whitbeck said these meets don’t mean much in the long run, but are important training for the championships.
“Our focus this year has been more about swimming through these meets, training really hard and hoping we can finish higher this year,” he said. “This team has had to find itself and I think they’ve done a nice job.
Whitbeck cited the leadership of fourth-year distance free swimmer Chelsea Allocco and fourth-year freestyle swimmer Victoria Scalise as the driving force of a team with 10 second-year swimmers.
“I think they’re really developing and getting better,” Whitbeck said. “I think we have an opportunity to do something special during the season. Hopefully we’ll finish out strong.”
Allocco said she is aiming to finish out her final season strong as well. She set the Eliting Pool record in the 1,000 freestyle with a time of 10:40:94, beating the previously held record by six seconds.
“It feels great to have gotten this record,” Allocco said. “It’s been something I’ve been working for since I was a freshman, so it was nice to be able to accomplish my goal before I graduated.”
Allocco said her coach helped her achieve this record.
“Scott has helped by providing me with awesome practices every day which allow me to reach my true potential as a swimmer, and by telling me when I need to pick up the pace to reach the time I want,” she said.
Allocco holds the school record already in all of the women’s distance events, Whitbeck said.
According to the New Paltz Hawks website, Allocco is last season’s SUNYAC champion in the 400 individual medley and the 1,650 freestyle. Whitbeck cited her hard work and talent responsible for her accomplishments.
“She is quite simply the greatest female distance swimmer that has ever swam in this conference,” he said. “It’s been a real pleasure to have coached her for four years. She’s made me look like a great coach. She’s got this certain veteran confidence that you just don’t see from other swimmers. She knows that when she goes out there she’s going to win and when she puts her mind to it she can do anything she wants.”
Allocco said she will miss her teammates the most when she graduates at the end of the season, but is confident the team will continue to get better even after she leaves.
“Having people who you see every day without fail, who work out with you and who share the same pain as you will be irreplaceable after college,” she said.
The Lady Hawks return to competition from Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 20-22, for the 2014 SUNYAC Swimming & Diving Championships hosted at Erie Community College’s Burt Flickinger Athletic Center.