Just because they swim independently doesn’t mean they’re alone.
Not every high school on Long Island has a pool or a swim team, but athletes at those schools still find a way to compete for county and state championships in independent meets during the year.
“The independents come together and we are a team,” said Jake Vecchio, an independent swimmer from Comsewogue. “That’s the mood of the whole thing. We all represent different schools, but at the end of the meet, we all come together as Section XI.”
And at the Suffolk boys championships at Suffolk Community College-Brentwood Saturday, the independents excelled. Brendan Williams of Mount Sinai and Henry Shemet of Miller Place each won two races.
Williams won the 200-yard freestyle in 1 minute, 41.29 seconds, and the 500 free in 4:35.18. Both times were the fastest marks in the state entering Saturday according to swimdata.info. Williams said he hasn’t performed like he hoped in previous county championships, but he felt confident Saturday.
“I had so much motivation,” Williams said. “I knew I wanted this year to be my year. The past three years, it hasn’t been there for me and I came here wanting to win those two events. I’m just so incredibly happy I was able to do that.”
Shemet repeated as county 200 individual medley champion, touching in 1:54.90. He also won the 100 breaststroke in 58.48.
“In the back of my mind, I definitely knew I wanted to win both events,” Shemet said. “This morning, I was feeling great. I had a nice big breakfast, big bowl of cereal, I was coming in today thinking it was going to be great.”
Vecchio won the 100 fly in 49.96 and placed second in the 200 free, and Sachem's Mike Dowd won the 50 free in 21.82 and was a member of Sachem’s winning 200 free relay.
Chester Pergan of Smithtown won the 100 back in 53.13, and Benjamin Glazebnik of Half Hollow Hills won the 100 free in 47.19 and was second in the 50 free. Glazebnik’s victory helped the ThunderColts win their 14th straight county title, according to coaches Kevin Mongan and Chris Blumenstetter, with 354 team points.
“We lost a lot of really good swimmers last year so it was really on us -- the captains [Bryan Park and Josh Lee] -- to keep the streak going because it’s a really big deal for us,” said Lucas Tack, who was a member of Hills’ winning 200 medley and 400 free relays. “If we lost that, it would kind of tear us apart.”
With the state championships set for March 6-7 at the Nassau Aquatic Center, the Suffolk swimmers hope to see their successes carry over.
Shemet said he was excited for the state meet. “I have my eyes on first there, too, so hopefully that can happen,” he said. “I’ve been training hard with my friends, everyone’s been training hard, and I can’t wait to see what everyone does there.”
200-yard medley relay: Half Hollow Hills (Szypula, Wu, Tack, Glazebnik) 1:39.40, Hauppauge (Reino, Jo. Nielsen, Schroeder, Ja. Nielsen) 1:40.11, Connetquot/East Islip (Llewellyn, Stanzione, Russell, Spameni) 1:40.23
200 free: Williams (Mt. Sinai) 1:41.29, Vecchio (Comsewogue) 1:42.87, Preston (Miller Place) 1:44.29
200 IM: Shemet (MP) 1:54.90, Tack (HHH) 1:57.22, Jang (Commack) 2:00.32
50 free: Dowd (Sachem) 21.82, Glazebnik (HHH) 21.90, Tie - Karpf (Northport), Jo. Nielsen (Ha) 21.91
100 fly: Vecchio (Coms) 49.96, O’Sullivan (Middle Country) 50.94, Tack (HHH) 52.67
100 free: Glazebnik (HHH) 47.19; Kipshidze (Longwood) 47.21; Dowd (Sach) 47.34
500 free: William (MS) 4:35.18; Greenfield (No) 4:44.69, Szypula (HHH) 4:50.49
200 free relay: Sachem (Engel, Honan, Davis, Dowd) 1:29.30; Hauppauge (Jo. Nielsen, Reino, Schroeder, Ja. Nielsen) 1:29.60; East Hampton (Duryea, Forst, Menjura, McCormac) 1:29.97
100 back: Pergan (Smithtown) 53.13, Kipshidze (Long) 53.38, Giunta (Coms) 54.25
100 breast: Shemet (MP) 58.48, O’Sullivan (MC) 59.31, Jang (Comm) 1:00.62
400 free relay: HHH (Glazebnik, Lee, Wu, Tack) 3:13.43, Sachem (Honan, Varrichio, Engel, Dowd) 3:15.26, Connet/EI (Russell, Ortiz, Gorman, Llewellyn) 3:24.31
Team Totals: HHH 354, Tie - Sachem 234, Connet/EI 234.