Swimming Teams Finish Strong

The Men’s and Women’s swimming teams competed in the 2015 SUNYAC Championships from Thursday, Feb. 19 to Saturday, Feb. 21 at Erie Community College’s Burt Flickinger Aquatic Center in Buffalo, New York.

The Men’s team finished fourth out of nine teams while the Women’s team finished third out of nine teams for the second year in a row. Neither team advanced to the NCAA Division III Swimming and Diving Championships.

The Men’s team finished with 395 points after the three-day event. On Saturday, the Hawks earned the most points in the 200 yard breaststroke. Third-year co-Captain Ryan Lindgren finished fourth in the event with a time of 2:10.24. Second-year Vitaut Gurskiy, first-year Chad Plante and second-year Matt Alfultis also garnered points for the Hawks, with an 11th (2:17.33), 14th (2:19.17) and 15th (2:19.92) place finish, respectively.

Fourth-year co-Captain Jack Spader finished second in the 1,650 yard freestyle with a time of 16:24.16. Spader’s performance in the tournament earned him the James Fulton Award, making him the seventh member of the SUNY New Paltz Men’s swimming program to receive this honor. The award is given annually to a senior male swimmer/diver based on the swimmer’s All-American honors, All-SUNYAC honors and improvement throughout collegiate career and academic achievement. Spader also earned a Second-Team All-SUNYAC selection in the 1,650 yard freestyle for the third-straight year, as well as earning Second-Team All-SUNYAC honors for his performance in the 500 yard freestyle for the second straight year.

“To me, winning [The James Fulton] award was the perfect way to end my swimming career,” Spader said. “It is an honor to have not just my coach, but the other team coaches recognize and congratulate me for my success.”

Spader is the lone Hawk who will not be returning to the Men’s swimming team next season. The fourth place finish at the SUNYAC Championships was an improvement from the sixth place finish the team earned last season.

The Women’s team finished the Championship with 481 points. The Hawks exchanged the second place ranking with the SUNY Oneonta Red Dragons back-and-forth throughout Saturday’s events. Oneonta’s performance in the 400 yard freestyle gave them a final point total of 489, a small margin above the Hawks.

Four different Hawks scored points for the team in the 200 yard breaststroke. Fourth-year co-Captain Samantha Granan led the way with a fourth-place finish (2:28.18). First-year Megan Joseph was right behind her with a seventh-place finish (2:31.08) while fourth-year Colleen Stewart and third-year Krista VerMeersch finished 10th (2:32.40) and 13th (2:34.96), respectively.

In the team’s final individual event of the season, third-year co-Captain Maggie Heaton led the way with a fifth-place finish (2:13.36) in the 200 yard butterfly. Third-year Kim Kallansrude finished in seventh (2:14.31), while fourth-year Rachel Cummings finished 16th (2:27.70).

“From last year to this year our biggest improvement was the depth and togetherness of our team,” Heaton said. “In previous years we had relied on individual swimmers to win races and score us points. However, this year our main focus was getting as many people to score as possible and making scoring a team effort.  This brought the team closer and displayed a presence of excitement for every race on the pool deck.”

Along with Cummings, Granan and Stewart, fourth-year co-Captain Kat Buyes and fourth-year Amanda Lynch will not return to the team next season.

On Tuesday, Feb. 24, it was announced that the Women’s team was recognized as a College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) Scholar All-America team. The Hawks are one of 108 NCAA Division III Women’s programs to earn the honor. This honor is given to teams who achieved a team grade-point average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher. The Hawks finished

the fall semester with a cumulative team GPA of 3.03. SUNY Geneseo, who finished in first place at the SUNYAC Championships, is the only other SUNYAC team to earn the                 honor with a 3.04 GPA.

Despite the fact both his teams did not advance, Head Coach Scott Whitbeck was very proud of his teams and believes they both have a bright future.

“Of the 36 athletes we brought to the championships, 35 of them scored points for the team,” he said. “This is the best I’ve ever done in that regard. The future is bright and we are only going to get better. One of our goals for this season was to continue our run of making the NCAA Championships, which unfortunately did not happen, but we will refocus and shoot to qualify for the meet again next year. The closeness of this group is something I hope we continue to have for years to come.”