By Katie Donlevy
CORTLAND – After four intense weeks of training, The State University of New York at New Paltz swimming team went into its first meet of the season eager to get back into a racing mindset. The Hawks placed second on both the men and women’s sides out of five teams.
Unofficially, the women trailed behind SUNY Cortland 570 to 522 points, while the men scored 510 to the Red Dragons’ 614. SUNY New Paltz was less concerned with the score and more proud of the effort they displayed in their events.
“We needed to learn how to race again, and to learn how fun and special the opportunity to represent New Paltz can be,” said SUNY New Paltz coach Tom Eickelberg. “This is always a fun first meet. Our team makes each meet really special, and they did a great job attacking the pool and embracing the competitive opportunity they had.”
The Cortland Pumpkin Relays is a fun introduction to the season that breaks from the traditional meet format. Each event consisted of relay events, most of which don’t exist in the program and are meant to get swimmers back into the feel of racing again.
Host SUNY Cortland racked first place finishes in 14 of the 15 events. SUNY New Paltz edged the Red Dragons out for first in the 300-yard backstroke relay, featuring junior Chelsea Anguals, senior Nicole Lee and sophomore Tessa Griger (3 minutes, 11.73 seconds) and the 200-yard medley relay featuring freshman Tori Bogdanski, sophomore Lindsay Kranitz, Griger and Lee (1:58.11).
The men enjoyed multiple second place finishes that came hot on the heels of SUNY Cortland. The 200-yard freestyle relay consisting of freshman Jared Finn, junior Tim Stecher, freshman Mitchell Chappell and sophomore Nolan West finished with a time of 1:33.12, threatening to close out SUNY Cortland (1:32.78).
“Our technical skills, the starts, push-offs and streamlines, are always something we will need to perfect,” said Eckberg. “Lots more widths and underwater sets coming up should help with that, as well as using some of our early season meets to dust the cobwebs off.”
The meet ended with an unofficial 200-yard relay consisting of eight members each swimming just one lap. Although it was the only even that didn’t count for points, it was the race the Hawks looked forward to the most.
SUNY New Paltz’s cheers filled up the arena so much, the officials had to ask the Hawks to lower their voices. The women secured another second place spot, while the men grabbed their only first place finish. Seniors Matthew Kessler, Joe Galante and Barrett Celecki, juniors Stecher and Matthew Pero, West, Finn and Chappell out-touched SUNY Cortland and were awarded a pumpkin as a prize.
“We’ll play with some different events at Hartwick, but the meet lineup is more traditional, and we’ll have to be more well rounded to compete against them,” said Eckberg. “Hartwick has always had a great distance crew, and they’ll be pushing a historically strong sprint team, so it will be an interesting meets.”
Hawks will travel to Oneonta to face Hartwick College Saturday at 1 p.m.