Despite dropping their first two meets at the Ithaca Invitational on Oct. 15, the New Paltz Men’s Swim Team is far from fearing sharks in the water.
The Hawks (0-2) fell to Ithaca College (2-0) 60-233 and SUNY Fredonia (1-1) 139-148 in one the team’s earliest meets in recent history.
“Obviously we would have liked to win,” said Head Coach Scott Whitbeck. “However, since it was in essence a practice meet and doesn’t count toward our SUNYAC Championship standing it was a great way for the guys to start.”
New Paltz is looking to build on the success the team experienced during the 2010-11 season when the Hawks were edged by SUNY Geneseo and SUNY Cortland, finishing third at the 2011 SUNYAC Championships.
“Cortland and us are always pretty close,” said fourth-year Pete Nastasi, one of the team’s captains. “But we have an experienced team with a lot of fast new guys as well, so we’re pretty excited to see what we can do.”
Nastasi, one of the team’s seven returning seniors, claimed the Hawks only victory at the Ithaca meet, grabbing first in the 200 meter breast stroke, while the team’s other captain, fourth-year Jeremy Borrelli, helped the men’s 200 meter freestyle relay to a third place finish. Fourth-year swimmers Corey Lomas, Marc Battisti and first-year Lucas Rusinak also placed for the Hawks in their respective events.
“We didn’t finish as high as we wanted to but to come out with the positives we did are definitely a great starting point,” said Borrelli. “I think getting to compete as early as we have will prove to be beneficial in the long run.”
Compared to previous years when the team has had 20 members, 2011-12 marks a year features just 16 swimmers, five of whom are first-years.
“This year has definitely been easier to stay motivated since all of the new guys who have come in have raised the bar,” said Borrelli. “I think that whatever we lack in numbers we definitely make up for with new talent.”
Along with new swimmers, the Hawks have added two former NCAA qualifiers, Greg Doyle and Michelle Rodriguez to the 2011-2012 coaching staff as well.
“Greg and Michelle have been great,” said Nastasi. “They both have led by example and are familiar with SUNYAC competition which really helps when it comes time to prepare.”
Despite having achieved team success, the men have failed to make a splash individually, and have made those goals among their top priorities.
“Coach Whitbeck is definitely doing a great job recruiting,” said Nastasi. “We have a great team that can definitely make a run but we have to keep putting the time in and stay motivated to have some guys qualify for nationals.”
Whitbeck, a stand-out swimmer and two-time ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American during his tenure at Kalamazoo College, believes his team has what it takes.
“We are a well-balanced team,” said Whitbeck. “We have solid sprinters and a strong distance team, so I’m confident we can continue to be successful going forward.”
The Hawks will continue their ascent on Oct. 29, when they take part in the Union College Relays in Schenectady, N.Y. at 1 p.m.