Amherst boys reel in second place at WMass swimming championships

Last modified: Wednesday, March 05, 2014
SPRINGFIELD — With a lot of talent and a little bit of strategy, the Amherst Regional boys swim team brought home some hardware after the Western Massachusetts Championship meet on Sunday evening.

Amherst took second place with 267 points, its strongest finish in recent memory, securing the placement with a second-place finish in the 400-yard freestyle relay. The Hurricanes finished seven points ahead of Westfield. The juggernaut Minnechaug Regional team captured its seventh straight title with 343 points.

“No, I honestly didn’t,” Amherst coach Keith McFarland said when asked if he expected the outcome. “We had a strong team, but with this meet and so many good swimmers, you really don’t know how it’s going to play out.”

Marc Klepacki said the Hurricanes put more emphasis on strong performances at the sectional meet than in past years because they felt with the strength of their club, they had the opportunity to compete for a championship.

“We’ve been putting a lot of pressure on this meet. In the past we would have tapered more for states, but this year we put a really high emphasis on Western Mass to see how close we could get to winning,” he said. “We’ll see how things go for states, but we’re taking things one step at a time.”

In addition to several outstanding individual performances, the Hurricanes moved some personnel around to strengthen their relays, a move that put them over the top.

“Last year, our relays finished third (200 medley relay), seventh (200 freestyle relay) and first (400 freestyle relay) and we really wanted to improve on those, especially the seventh-place finish,” McFarland said. “This year, we went second, fifth, second, so I think we did a good job there.”

Heading into the 400 free relay, the Hurricanes had a 13-point advantage over the Bombers, while Minnechaug had already locked up the title with a strong effort in the breaststroke. After a slow start left Amherst near the back of the pack in the top heat of the final event, the team of Samson Braun, Eric Chen, Ciaran Dillon-Davidson and Alan Tang came storming back to finish second to a Westfield relay that beat the rest of the competition by more than six seconds.

“That finish was probably better than I thought it would have been,” McFarland said. “I knew we needed to finish at least fifth and I was really hoping for fourth, so coming in second was a nice surprise.”

Individually, Tang won a pair of individual events, including one of the closest races in the 100 free, touching out Longmeadow’s Justin Liu with a time of 49.33. Liu touched in at 49.37.

“My goal was to go out there really fast, but on the second 50, I could really see him creeping up on me,” Tang said. “He’s a really good back-half swimmer and I saw him coming up on me, so that last 5 yards, I just buried my head and went hard into that finish.”

Tang also took first in the 100 back (55.65), keeping Amherst in the hunt for the team title in the late stages of the meet.

Dillon-Davidson won the meet’s first individual event, the 200 free, by more than 2½ seconds with a time of 1:47.17, but said more work was to be done.

“I’m happy to get first, but the time was about two seconds slower than my time at states last year,” Dillon-Davidson said. “I’m doing (the event) again at states this year, so I’m glad I get another chance at it.”

Noting that it was good to get the first event out of the way early, he later easily won the 500 free. With an aggressive approach, he put distance between himself and the competition right off the block and cruised to a time of 4:46.35. Northampton’s Aidan Winn, seeded first in the event, was a distant second with a time of 4:51.95.

Klepacki finished the 100 fly with a time of 53.29, taking first in the event in which he finished second at the sectional meet last year.

“This is a feeling I’ve never had before; it’s such an honor,” Klepacki said. “I feel like I’ve had stronger swims before, but I was really focused on winning. Jimmy (Stinehart of Westfield, second place) is swimming really strong right now, and George (Somerville of Taconic, third place) too, but my goal was to come in first place and I’m glad I met that goal.”

Hunter Carkhuff placed seventh in the 100 back (59.28) for the Hurricanes.

In addition to his second-place finish in the 500, Winn took third in the 100 back (56.94) to lead Northampton, which finished 13th with 67 points. Gabe Lyons-Sosa took eighth in the 200 IM (2:15.56).

“I thought overall, we swam decently, but I wish we had been a little stronger in some areas,” Northampton coach Jim Hirtle said. “But they’re young and on top of everything else, they’ve got to get used to the meet. I’m not graduating a lot and hopefully I have some good-sized classes coming in, so the future looks bright.”

Belchertown finished in 10th, led by Matthew Quinney, who placed fifth in the 200 IM (2:05.66) and 500 free (5:10.05). Dennis Lelic took 10th in the 100 back, while Andrew Endress was 14th in the 50 free and the 100 fly.

South Hadley road Ryan Manniello to an 11th-place result. The junior took third in the 200 free (1:50.91) and fourth in the 100 free (50.53). Eighth-grader Nathan McClure was sixth in the 200 free (1:53.97) and 10th in the 500 free (5:27.20).

Ryan Revaz took 15th in the 100 free for Easthampton (54.23).