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St. Anthony’s, Half Hollow Hills win state swim titles

Half Hollow Hiills' Alex Park swims in

Half Hollow Hiills' Alex Park swims in the finals of the 200 yard individual medley during the NYSPHSAA 2016 Swimming & Diving Championships held at Erie Community College in Buffalo, N.Y. on Saturday, March 5, 2016. Credit: Adrian Kraus / Adrian Kraus

BUFFALO — Long Island high school boys swimmers are coming home with quite the collection of hardware.

St. Anthony’s won its first Federation championship and Half Hollow Hills won its first public school title at the state championship meet at Erie Community College Saturday. The two schools finished first and second overall with 184 and 174 points, respectively.

“It’s exactly what anyone could have wanted it to be for our last season,” said St. Anthony’s senior Sean Cannon. “It’s been building up every year. We’ve been getting better and better and placing higher at states each year and from day one, this was our No. 1 goal and to be able to achieve that throughout the year and as seniors is perfect.”

The Friars opened the meet with an Automatic All-American time of 1 minute, 34.09 seconds in winning the 200-yard medley relay. The team was comprised of Tyler Meyers, Michael Chang, Andrew Stange and Cannon. Hills touched second in 1:35.74. Meyers gave St. Anthony’s a lead it did not relinquish when he clocked 24.06 on the opening leg (backstroke), and Cannon anchored the win with a 20.16 clocking (freestyle).

“We knew it was a great way to start off the meet,” Meyers said, “and it got us to a perfect start and we just continued with our momentum.”

Although it was the only race the Friars won, they placed in the top-nine finishes in 10 of 11 races. Cannon had the Friars’ top individual performance, finishing second in the 50 free in 20.92.

“I’ve been to every meet since 1986 so it’s been 30 years for me, never in my wildest dreams thought that I’d have a team like these guys,” said coach Dan McBride. “I could cry over it.”

Hills’ Alex Park successfully defended his 200 IM state championship and was Long Island’s lone individual swimming winner. Park, who finished in 1:51.21, edged North Rockland’s Matthew Zugibe by .01 seconds.

“I feel humbled and very blessed to be able to do that because it wasn’t easy for me,” Park, a junior, said. “I won by .01. I don’t really consider that luck actually, I think that was God pulling me through the water.”

Hills’ 200 free relay team (Harrison Tack, Justin Chang, Dylan Chan and Park) won its race in 1:25.94, setting a Suffolk County record.

“It’s unbelievable,” Park said. “In the beginning of the season, we thought that we could do this. It was just an idea and we didn’t know how realistic it would be. But over the season, we’ve been working at this so hard and after all this, the results came out like we hoped it did and we’re all ridiculously happy.”

Hills planned its strategy around winning the team championship. Swimming is often thought of as an individual sport, but Hills swimmers made personal sacrifices for the team. For example, Chang swam all three relays rather than more individual events. Park, who qualified for the state meet in every race, swam the 100 free instead of the 100 back, which he prefers a little more.

“For me personally,” Chang said, “it’s something that I never thought I would be able to be a part of and we accomplished that during my senior year.”

“I made them a promise that if, for the next 48 hours, they were great in three facets — sportsmanship, effort and selflessness — the state championship would take care of itself,” said coach Chris Blumenstetter. “They were. And it did.”

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