It was a near-perfect day for the Rye swim team February 16 at the Section championships in the Felix Festa Middle School pool. The Garnets won three individual titles and qualified five swimmers in six races for the State championships March 4-5 at the Nassau Aquatic Center in East Meadow.
Senior Kevin Hughes won both the 200- and 500-meter freestyle events, while fellow senior Chris Lyons finished first in the 200 individual medley and second in the 100 freestyle. As a team, the Garnets placed eighth out of 25.
Hughes kick-started Rye’s banner day with a dramatic victory in the 200 free. Last year, Hughes finished a heartbreaking .14 seconds out of first when Horace Greeley’s Matt Hadley touched him out. The senior saved his best for last this time around, however, with a dominating final lap that propelled him past another Greeley swimmer, Taegan Clark, and to the Section title with a 1:41.86 time.
“I’m very happy to win it this year after what happened in 2010,” said Hughes. “I’m more of a distance swimmer anyway, so I try and go the same speed the entire race while others wear themselves out early.”
“That’s what he’s known for,” said Rye head coach Chris Dewey of Hughes penchant for late dramatics. “When the competition is running out of gas he keeps going.”
The senior’s distance swimming ability was on full display in the 500 freestyle event. Hughes placed first for a second straight year, and finished over 10 seconds ahead of the next swimmer when he clocked in at 4:36.66. He will compete in both the 500 and 200 freestyle races at States.
Lyons continued what Hughes started by winning the 200 IM in a time of 1:53.83. He took command in the butterfly portion of the race and then finished it off on the final freestyle leg, edging second place by .33 seconds.
“It feels great to win after working so hard at it for such a long time,” said Lyons, who was late to the awards podium because a pre-game meal left feeling queasy. “And it’s the best to have our team here supporting each other.”
Lyons will represent Rye in East Meadow in both of his individual races, and is also part of the two Garnet relay teams that qualified for States. Although they placed eighth in the 200 medley relay final, Rye’s preliminary time of 1:40.53 earned them an automatic bid. The team was comprised of Hughes, Lyons, senior Kevin Miller, and junior Carlos Gallagher. Miller is unable to attend the State championships, however, and will be replaced by Sam Rubenstein.
The 400 freestyle relay team will also appear at the Nassau Aquatic Center. They qualified with a strong time of 3:20.60 in the B final. The team also includes Lyons, Hughes, and Gallagher, but features Liam Egan — a seventh-grader — as well.
“Our team performance exceeded all expectations,” said Dewey, the proud first-year head coach.
— Jim Byrne