Jake Nielsen is third Hauppauge boy to take state title...

Jake Nielsen is third Hauppauge boy to take state title in swimming when he won 50 freestyle in 20.68 seconds on Saturday, March 5, 2022. Credit: Bridget Fetsko

ITHACA, N.Y. — When Jake Nielsen was a child he would often stare up at the record board at the Hauppauge high school pool.

"I would ask him, ‘what are you looking at?’ Hauppauge assistant coach Brandon Modrov said. "And he would tell us he was looking at the 50-yard freestyle record and said he’d be up there one day. At the time I don’t think he realized how fast that was."

On Saturday at the state swimming meet in Ithaca, Nielsen made his mark, winning the 50 freestyle in 20.68 to become the third Hauppauge boy to win a state swimming title.

Hauppauge’s Justin Plashka still holds the 50 free state record at 20.08, but now Nielsen’s name will also be up on the board forever. (Trenton Burr won in 2019.)

"I had no idea that I won," Nielsen said. "I just had my head straight down and gave it everything that I had and just prayed that I was going to win."

It was fitting that the race Nielsen dreamed about winning in elementary school was the one he conquered to win a state title.

"He’s a versatile swimmer," Modrov said. "Last year he didn’t even make the 100 free time for this meet but he’s made a ton of progress in the last year. He could have swam any event but we’ve been working on different things and he knew he wanted to swim the 50 freestyle."

Nielsen also finished sixth later in the day in the 100 free.

"I just felt joy when I looked up [after the 50 free]," Nielsen said. "I was so happy. This year when I started lifting I felt like I got a lot stronger and I finally had the strength to pull off a time like this where I could win."

The St. Anthony’s 200-medley relay team also did what it had to do to pull off a winning time. In the first race of the day the team of Aaron Mendoza, Noah Cakir, Connor Brown and Matthew McManus swam a time of 1:33.44 to take the title. Burnt Hills-Scotia of Section II was second and Huntington/Harborfields/Whitman took third.

"When I’m going up to the box in an individual race I’m usually listening to music but when I’m with my team we’re always talking and hyping each other up," McManus said. "We want to make sure that we’re all in the perfect mindset to go fast."

Besides swimming on the winning relay team, Cakir, a freshman, was second in the 200 IM and fourth in the 100 breaststroke.

"Being able to win with your teammates, and to do it as a freshman, is really cool," Cakir said. "Overall the meet was around my expectations, I would have liked to have done a little better in the breaststroke but it was pretty good."

Miller Place’s Liam Preston capped off a strong meet with a title in the 200 free and a razor close second place in the 500 free. But he clocked 1:38.88, second overall to Henry Amar of Fordham Prep in the 200.

"I would have loved to have seen myself do this when I was younger," Preston said. "Even last year I never thought I could do it. I’ve been improving every year and it’s exciting. I loved being able to look up after the race and see my mom and my family so happy for me."

In the 500, Preston led by .02 seconds with 50-yards to go and just missed out on another title. He finished in 4:31.59.

"My goal that last 100 yards was to bring it home and I almost did," Preston said. "It was a good race."

Whitman’s Joe Tonna also finished off his last state meet by coming in second place at 45.70 in the 100 free. He was also a part of Huntington/Harborfield/Whitman’s third place 200-medley relay team and the fourth place 400 free team.

Patrick Broderick of Manhasset (4:33.55 in the 500 free), Matthew Chang of Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK (56.82 in the 100 breaststroke) and the Chaminade 200-free relay team were the others from Long Island who finished in the top three.

Huntington/Harborfields/Whitman took second in the team competition with 155 points, finishing behind Horace Greeley of Section I, which had 194. St. Anthony’s was fifth with 109 and Chaminade ninth with 83 points.

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