The men’s and women’s swimming teams competed in the 2016 State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) Championships from Thursday, Feb. 18 to Saturday, Feb. 20 at Erie Community College’s Burt Flickinger Aquatic Center in Buffalo, New York.
Both teams finished in second out of nine teams. The women finished with 681 points, while the men tallied 526 points. The women scored more points at the tournament than they have ever scored before. The men’s team has not finished as high as second place at the tournament since 1994. SUNY Geneseo took home the 2016 SUNYAC title on both the men’s and women’s side. For the men’s side, it marks their 23rd title in program history. On the women’s side, this is the Knights’ ninth straight and 24th title overall in program history.
“It was probably the best year in the history of the program,” Hawks Head Coach Scott Whitbeck said. “We scored more points than ever before in the history of our team at the SUNYAC Championships. What was a big thing was that all of our swimmers stepped up, every single person scored points and scored well. That’s something we have never done before; have all 18 athletes score like that. That was pretty neat and exciting. I’m very pleased with how we swam.”
The women saw success from the very beginning of the first day of competition. In the 200 freestyle relay, the first event of the night, second-year Molly McCulloch, first-years Katie Donlevy and Kaleigh O’Halloran and fourth-year co-captain Cassidy Griger finished with a second place time of 1:36.52. That set a new program record for New Paltz in that event.
Griger would later finish second in the 500 freestyle with a time of 5:05.45. Due to her second place finish, Griger earned Second-Team All-SUNYAC honors. Donlevy would finish third in the 200 individual medley with a time of 2:10.62, earning her Second-Team All-SUNYAC recognition. McCulloch would also earn Second-Team All-SUNYAC honors with her second place finish in the 50 freestyle with a time of 24.16.
During the second day of competition, first-year Jaimie Kaefer finished the 400 individual medley in first with an NCAA “B” cut time of 4:36.01, earning her the SUNYAC title for that event as well as First-Team All-SUNYAC recognition. McCulloch would again earn Second-Team All-SUNYAC honors with her 57.75 second-place finish in the 100 butterfly. Griger won her first career SUNYAC individual championship, as she finished in first in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:53.91. Along with Kaefer, this earned Griger First-Team All-SUNYAC honors.
On the final day of competition, Donlevy earned First-Team All-SUNYAC honors with her 2:27.54 conference title victory in the 200 breaststroke. Griger finished second in the 100 freestyle with a time of 52.87, which would have earned her Second-Team All-SUNYAC had she not already received this honor during Thursday’s competition.
Griger was also awarded the Grace Mowatt Award on Saturday. The award is given annually to a senior female swimmer who showed great athletic and academic achievement throughout their collegiate career. Griger is the sixth swimmer in program history to receive this honor.
“Earning the Grace Mowatt Award was a great honor,” Griger said. “I am very happy to be added to the long list of New Paltz swimmers who have earned the award before me.”
The men also set a program record in their first event of the first day of competition. Third-year Austin Kowalsky, second-year Caleb Treadwell, and fourth-year co-captains Ethan Cooke and Will Koenig combined for a second place finish in the 200 freestyle relay. Their time of 1:23.73 broke their mark of 1:24.46 that the four had set earlier this season. Koenig would earn Second-Team All-SUNYAC honors with his 21.12 third place finish in the 50 freestyle, which also set a new program record.
On the second day of competition, Treadwell, Cooke, Koenig and fourth-year co-captain Ryan Lindgren finished third in the 200 medley relay. Their time of 1:33.34 set a new program record, the four had set the record last season with a time of 1:34.48. Treadwell twice broke the program record in the 100 butterfly; his nighttime fourth-place time of 51.11 will be the one that remains in the books.
During the final day of competition, second-year Barrett Celecki finished third in the 1,650 freestyle with a time of 16:51.70, earning him Second-Team All-SUNYAC honors. In his final individual race of his collegiate career, Cooke also earned Second-Team All-SUNYAC honors with his 1:56.67 third place time in the 200 butterfly that set a new program record.
In the final event of the competition, Kowalsky, Treadwell, Cooke and Koenig dominated the 400 freestyle relay. The four combined for a first place time of 3:05.14, which broke the SUNYAC overall, SUNYAC meet and New Paltz program record for the event.
“I feel like my team performed incredibly at SUNYACs,” Treadwell said. “We earned second place thanks to every single person on the team, even the ones not in attendance.”
Although the Hawks did not win the tournament, both teams feel as though they performed extremely well and proved a lot for the program.
“I think they were a little bit disappointed with how they finished last year,” Whitbeck said. “We lost to Oneonta by eight points last year to finish third. They had dedicated themselves and put together a really, really strong effort throughout the season.”
Along with Griger, fourth-year co-captains Ella Graffin and Maggie Heaton and fourth-years Kim Kallansrude, Casey O’Connor and Krista VerMeersch will not return to the Hawks next season. For the men, Cooke, Koenig, Lindgren as well as fourth-year Tom Anderson will graduate in the spring.
“Swimming at New Paltz is more of a lifestyle than just a sport,” Griger said. “I will cherish all of the memories I’ve made over the past four years while competing, training, and living with my best friends.”
With the success the teams have had this season, both teams expect to be even more successful next year and for years to come.
“We saw a glimpse of what we are capable of this year and that is going to motivate us even more to try and reach our full potential for years to come,” Treadwell said. “We know we can be a top tier team and we know what is necessary to achieve that. It’s really a snowball effect, every year we get faster, we know we can be and want to be so much for the following years.”
With all of the accomplishments the teams achieved this season, Whitbeck expects his teams to remain focused and not settle for second place.
“We’re happy with finishing second because it was better than last year, but the ultimate goal is to compete for the championship and we have some work to do to get to that next level,” Whitbeck said. “Hopefully we set our goals one step higher and keep moving in the right direction.”