Miller Place's Liam Preston in preliminary of 200-yard freestyle. He's...

Miller Place's Liam Preston in preliminary of 200-yard freestyle. He's in center lane for Saturday's final. The prelims were on Friday, March 4, 2022, in Ithaca, N.Y. Credit: Adrian Kraus

ITHACA, N.Y. — The last time Liam Preston swam in a state championship meet as a sophomore in 2020 he qualified for the consolation finals in both the 200 and 500-yard freestyle races.

After the COVID-19 pandemic canceled state championships for the 2020-21 school year Preston knew he only had one more chance to win a state title.

He accomplished that goal Friday at Ithaca College and will not only be swimming in the ‘A’ final, but will be in the center lane as the top seed in the 200 freestyle.

"Since I started varsity in seventh grade it’s always been a dream of mine to make it here," Preston, a Miller Place senior, said. "To actually have a chance at winning means a lot to me. My younger self would have loved to see this."

Preston finished the 200 in a time of 1 minute, 39.53 seconds to take the top spot. Three other Long Island swimmers also made the final, which consists of the top nine times, including Kellenberg's Ryan Nunez, Chaminade's Stephen McDonald and Manhasset’s Michael Ma.

Preston also had the second fastest time in the 500 free, finishing in 4:34.31.

"I think my times this morning were pretty good so I’m feeling good going into the final," Preston said. "I need to get more rest and bring it tomorrow and give it everything I have."

Joe Tonna of Whitman also qualified first in his event, putting up a time of 45.67 in the 100 free.

"I didn’t expect to finish first," Tonna said, "but I was obviously trying for it so it was nice to get it."

Tonna also qualified for the ‘A’ final in the 50 free, finishing fifth, and in the 200-medley relay and the 400-free relay, finishing third in each with his Huntington/Harborfields/Whitman teammates.

"It’s been almost three years since I’ve swam at states so it’s great to be able to come up here with eight guys from our team and we’re doing pretty well," he said. "We’re having fun."

Hauppauge’s Jake Nielsen also qualified in the top five in two events, finishing second in the 50 free (20.97) and the 100 free (47.02).

"Tomorrow it’s not really about the times," Nielsen said. "It’s just all about winning."

St. Anthony’s freshman Noah Cakir continued his great season, qualifying second in the 200-IM (1:52.55), fourth in the 100 breaststroke (56.88) and swimming the butterfly leg as St. Anthony’s had the fastest prelim time in the 200-medley relay with 1:34.37.

Plainview-Old Bethpage’s Matthew Chang also qualified in the top five in both of his individual events, finishing third in the 200 IM (1:53.61) and fifth in the 100 breaststroke (57.24).

"I got a good feel for the pool since it's the first time I've swam here," Chang said. "I'm looking to do even better tomorrow."

Newsday LogoCovering LI news as it happensDigital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months