By ROB JONAS
With the Section 2 championships lurking next month, it’s time to look at some of the individuals and relay teams that are making waves in Section 2 boys swimming and diving.
Bethlehem 200-yard freestyle relay – The team of Max Kaback, John Janeski, Jason Wu and Joey Chiarella turned in the fastest time in New York State with its first-place performance at the Shenendehowa Invitational last month. The Eagles finished with a mark of 1:27.75 to put themselves on the state’s radar. Also, keep an eye on Bethlehem’s 400-yard freestyle relay team, which placed second to Pittsford at the Shen Invitational with a time of 3:16.48.
Speaking of Bethlehem, Kaback has a chance to medal in the 100-yard backstroke. The sophomore posted a season-best time of 52.54 seconds at the Shen Invitational, which is .04 seconds off the state’s third-best time set by Monroe-Woodbury’s Liam Allen. Kaback will have some work to do to get closer to the top time in the state of 51.25 seconds, set by Garden City’s Jake Newmark.
T.J. Bearor (Queensbury) – The senior is one of the fastest sprinters in the pool. Bearor is tied with Waverly’s Mike Atanasoff for the top time in the 50-yard freestyle (21.29 seconds), and he owns the sixth-best time in the state for the 100-yard butterfly (51.60 seconds). However, there is another Section 2 swimmer with a stronger time in the butterly …
Bryce Henkel (Albany Academy) – The junior notched the fastest time in the 100-yard butterfly when he recorded a mark of 50.98 seconds at dual meet against Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk Jan. 16. Henkel is also an accomplished sprinter, having posted a time of 21.69 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle – ninth best in New York this season.
Keegan Stafford (Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake) – The sophomore owns the top Section 2 time this season with a mark of 1:46.48, which he set at the Shen Invitational.
Mark Lipkin (Niskayuna) – Lipkin posted a time of 4:45.45 in the 500-yard freestyle this season, which automatically qualified him for the state meet along with Mark Gregory of Saratoga Springs (4:49.37) and Ethan Rogowski of Shenendehowa (4:52.32).
Brayden Henkel (Albany Academy) – The younger Henkel is on the verge of automatically qualifying for the state meet in the 100-yard breaststroke. He came within a split second of hitting the mark at a dual meet Dec. 20 and currently has the best time for a Section 2 swimmer this season (1:01.20).
Conor Compton (Niskayuna) – The sophomore posted the highest 11-dive point total thus far with a score of 499.90 Dec. 14. He will be one of the favorites at the Section 2 meet along with Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk’s Jared Lamson, who is the only other area diver to come close to a 500-point score (496.15).
The Section 2 Swimming and Diving Championships take place Feb. 13-15 at the Shenendehowa Aquatic Center.
SUBURBAN SHOWDOWN LOOMING
The big dual meet this week is the battle of undefeated Suburban Council teams, as Bethlehem travels to Clifton Park Thursday to face off against Shen.
The Eagles had a pair of impressive victories last week, including a 106-80 victory over a strong Niskayuna squad Jan. 14. Victories in all three relays helped Bethlehem pull away from Niskayuna, which posted six wins in individual events.
The key for Bethlehem is overcoming Shen’s depth of talent. The Plainsmen have several strong swimmers including Rogowski, Alexander Fabris, Jaden Homan and Michael Lehmann. Bethlehem will need to secure at least a couple wins in individual events to go along with its dominant relay teams if it hopes to end Shen’s reign atop the Suburban Council standings.