Garnets Shine at Sectionals; Qualify Seven Swimmers for States

There are two ways to qualify for the girls’ swimming State championships: finish first in your event at Sectionals, or hit the “magic” time standard.

The “magic” reference is of course just a cute way of saying “qualifying time”, but – as it happens – the Garnet girls’ swimmers have had no shortage of enchantment on their side this autumn. Rye followed up a perfect 7-0 regular season by finishing second overall at the Section finals in early November. There was such an abundance of strong performances among the 16 who participated that seven are now bound for the State championships. The Garnets will compete in nine different events at the Webster Aquatic Center in western New York beginning November 20.

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Head coach Shannon Bolger and a handful of Garnets

“Assistant coach Jaime Saracino and I are very proud of all the girls,” said head coach Shannon Bolger. “They may compete as individuals, but at the end of the day they know they are a team and that’s what makes us successful. I think that is very important. They root for one another and encourage each other to be their best.”

Leading the way is freshman Melissa Fulenwider, who will swim in four events, including the 200 medley relay, 200 free relay, and both the 50 and 100 freestyle. Junior Courtney Ciardiello also has four events lined up – the 200 freestyle, 100 butterfly, 200 medley relay, and 400 free relay. Ciardiello and Fulenwider were at their best at Sectionals by combining for three top three finishes. Fulenwider medaled in both the 100 (2nd) and 50 free (3rd), and Ciardiello took third in the 200 free.

“These girls are truly special,” said Bolger. “They are the only two on the team that qualified for States in all four events they swam at Sectionals. Both are disciplined swimmers who strive to do and be the best.”

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Melissa Fulenwider takes third in the 50 freestyle

Joining the Terrific Twosome at States will be senior captains Amanda Owens (100 butterfly, 200 free relay, 400 free relay) and Allison Fulenwider (200 medley relay, 200 free relay, 400 free relay), fellow senior J.J. Cates (200 free relay), and juniors Kelly O’Neill (200 medley relay, 400 free relay, 100 backstroke) and Shannon Toal (500 free).

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Senior captain Amanda Owens

If not for the Fulenwider’s sisterly bond the Garnets might have only had eight events on tap this weekend. Rye was anxious about the prospects of their 200 medley team qualifying for States, but Allison and Melissa flip-flopping their stroke positions believing it would improve their time. The bright idea worked, as the relay team finished fifth and ahead of the State cut time ,with Allison swimming the free leg and Melissa slotting into the breaststroke.

“We talked about it first and then agreed to make the switch,” said Melissa, who one day hopes to break the Section record in the 100 free. “I think it helped that we’re sisters – a lot of people might have a problem with doing something like that. But we were open to it and it worked out well.”

Unfortunately, Rye will be without sophomore diver Coco Darelius at States. Despite finishing second at Divisionals and third at Sectionals, she did not qualify for the grand finale. Nevertheless, Bolger called her a beautiful diver to watch, one who’s still young with a bright future.

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Coco Darelius

On the horizon are middle school students Maeve Potter, Kelly Delane, and Charlotte Nixon, and freshman Katie Konopka. It won’t be surprising to see them follow in the wake of the seniors – Owens, Cates, Allison Fulenwider, Sarah Archibald, Lizzie Killin, Melissa Frank, and Rachel Pariser – who are taking their final laps as Garnets. That’s the real magic of the Rye girls’ swimming and diving team.

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