Hauppauge's Justin Plaschka was eager to battle the best. So instead of swimming his best events yesterday -- the 100- yard butterfly and 100 backstroke -- Plaschka competed in the 100 and 200 freestyles just to see how he'd fare against the elite freestylers in the Suffolk County Championships.
Plaschka came out on top in both events, earning Most Outstanding Swimmer honors for the second straight year as the only individual double winner in the meet at the Suffolk Community College Brentwood campus. He finished the 200 freestyle in 1 minute, 41.73 seconds, beating Lindenhurst's Kevin Konarski (1:43.92). In the 100 freestyle Plaschka set a county record of 45.61, breaking Jesse Gage's (Half Hollow Hills) 1999 record of 46.37. Sachem North's James Donlevy was second in 46.55.
"Good competition helps everyone go faster,'' Plaschka said with a smile. "I love to race against the top guys, I really enjoyed going up against them today.''
In the 100 free, Plaschka barely missed the state record of 45.29.
Plaschka also helped two relays to second-place finishes. He combined with Trevor Maida, Phil Quartararo and Travis Maida to qualify for the state meet in the 200 medley relay (1:39.85). The same group set a school record in the 400 freestyle relay (1:31.22).
"The way he swam in the relays was awesome,'' Hauppauge assistant coach Brandon Modrov said of Plaschka. "He wanted to do it for his friends because he's been to states twice by himself. I think he's more excited for them than for himself, that he gets to share the experience with some of his best friends.''
Plaschka will headline a Suffolk contingent of 29 swimmers and divers who qualified for the state championships in two weeks at Webster High School in Rochester. He will swim the 100 butterfly and 100 freestyle.
"I'm definitely going for two first-place finishes,'' Plaschka said confidently. "It's gonna be tough competition so I'm gonna have to step up my game.''
Sachem North had two relays qualify: Donlevy, Kyle Beigay, Greg Coleman and Christopher Tutone won the 200 freestyle relay (1:29.52), and Donlevy, Tutone, Coleman and Christopher Penteck won the 400 freestyle relay (3:16.64). Donlevy also won the 50 freestyle (21.36), Penteck finished second in the 100 backstroke (54.37) and Coleman was second in the 100 butterfly (53.92).
"I couldn't have asked for a better meet,'' Sachem North coach Larry Saposnick said. "The kids always seem to step it up on this day every year. It's a great feeling to see them rise to the occasion and accomplish their goals.''
Huntington sophomore Gunther Cassell won the 100 breaststroke for the second straight year in 57.80, and will look to defend his state championship. Cassell set a county record in the breaststroke in last year's state meet with a time of 57.20.
"I've never been a defending state champ before so this is a first for me,'' Cassell said. "I'm sure it's gonna work out fine; I'm gonna go in there and do the best I can to bring back another championship.''