At sectionals, Homan steps up as The Guy

PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER Joey Homan of Shenendehowa executes the breast stroke in the 200 Individual Medley at Shenendehowa High School Saturday.PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER Joey Homan of Shenendehowa executes the breast stroke in the 200 Individual Medley at Shenendehowa High School Saturday.

Gazette Sportswriter

CLIFTON PARK — For several years, Joey Homan has been a guy — a key guy, but just a guy — for the Shenendehowa swimming and diving team.

Until Saturday, he had never been The Guy.

The Plainsmen regained the team title they relinquished to Shaker the last two years, and Homan left his imprint all over the meet with legs on winning relays to start and finish it, and a pair of individual triumphs in between.

“It’s a great testament to hard work and dedication and doing everything right,” Shenendehowa coach Chuck Dunham said of the Section II Division 1 championship meet’s Coaches Choice Award winner. “To see where he’s come from . . . I remember when he was an eighth-grader, he was scared and intimidated about a lot of things.”

No other athlete at Shenendehowa’s Aquatics Center earned more than two first-place patches.

“I’ve always been there, but I’ve never been number one,” Homan said after taking a post-meet plunge with the rest of the Plainsmen. “It’s kind of a weird feeling to get all this attention. It’s a lot of fun.”

Winning the team title just added to it. Shenendehowa had claimed eight straight crowns before Shaker’s recent run.

“It’s nice for the younger guys to get what I got when I was younger,” Homan said.

Homan played a direct part in 120 of Shenendehowa’s 503 team points, the last 40 coming when he swam the second leg on a first-place 400-yard freestyle relay. With Josh Tsai leading off and Kaleb Hotaling and Adam Kogan following Homan, the Plainsmen went 3:10.68 to set pool and championship finals records.

“It’s a dream come true to finish my high school career that way, with some records and a team championship,” Homan said. “We wanted to go out with a bang. We wanted this year to to be historical.”

Shenendehowa’s 400 free relay group went 3:23.39 in Friday’s preliminaries, and was seeded fourth among eight who raced Saturday. Shaker was a distant second (3:14.49) in the final.

“That was phenomenal,” Dunham said after his foursome avenged last year’s 400 free relay loss to Shaker. “Cherry on top.”

Homan led off, and Brian Harding, Jackson Homan and Tsai followed on Shenendehowa’s winning 200 medley relay (1:36.21) to begin Saturday’s portion of the meet. Shenendehowa already had a meet-leading 65 points on the board after Thursday’s diving before that foursome delivered 40 more.

“It’s nice to start on top and nice to finish on top,” Joey Homan said. “We knew we were in good shape going into that last relay, and we wanted to cap it on a positive note.”

Joey Homan won the 200 individual medley (1:52.88) after placing third in the race last year, and defended his 100 backstroke title (51.41), setting championship finals records in both races.

“His legacy will be where you start and where you can finish when you put in the time and the work,” Dunham said of the five-year varsity performer. “He’s not only grown in strength, but mentally, as well, and it finally culminated in what has to be a perfect meet for him.”

Nick Lydon won the diving event Thursday for Shenendehowa’s other first-place points, while the Plainsmen used their superior depth to pile up a bunch more. Bethehem was second among the teams with 352 points, followed by Niskayuna and Shaker.

“It’s been three years since we’ve been in this position. I can’t say enough about the time, energy and dedication it took to get back on top,” Dunham said. “Sometimes you get knocked down. Sometimes things don’t go your way. Sometimes you’ve got to dust yourself off and get back to it.”

Guilderland/Voorheesville sophomore Joseph Gravino was the only other two-event individual winner, coming from behind to take the 50 free (21.78) and the 100 free (47.51).

“He was behind in both,” Guilderland/Voorheesville coach Vaclav Sotola said. “Slightly in the 50 and a lot in the 100. He has a big heart.”

Gravino edged Bryan Liu of Niskayuna (21.92) in the 50, and nipped 2016 champ Clayton Bennice of Ballston Spa (47.64) in the 100.

“I was worried a little,” Gravino, who attends Voorheesville, said of the 100. “When I hit the wall going into the third 25, I flipped and said, ‘I’m not going to lose.’ ”

Gravino far exceeded his individual goal which he said was to place at least third in one of his finals. He was ninth in both the 50 and 100 free last year.

“Last year, he was fast,” Sotola said. “This year, he’s come into his own.”

With a couple of strong lunges near the end, Zac Zwijacz of Saratoga Springs passed Neil Horne of Niskayuna to notch a thrilling victory in the 100 butterfly. Zwijacz gained All-
American consideration with his 50.10, which is second on the championship finals list. Horne, who would later help Niskayuna win the 200 free relay, went 50.47 for the third-best time on the championship finals list.

“It was a close race,” said Zwijacz, a junior, who placed second in the 100 fly last year. “He [Horne] goes out fast and I was trying to stay with him. I surged at the end.”

Ballston Spa swimmers couldn’t get a win for retiring coach Sandy Stanislowsky, but came awfully close.

Bennice not only placed second in the 100 free, but also in the 200 free, where he went 1:43.99 to finish behind Bethlehem’s Brendan Cartwright (1:43.90). Ballston Spa’s Tanner Damico placed second in the 100 breaststroke (59.11), losing the lead on the final lap to winner Steven Yu of Shaker (58.69).

Ballston Spa’s 200 medley relay that included Damico was second to Shenendehowa.

Tucker Besch won the 100 fly (50.88), Bryce Henkel took the 500 free (4:50.21) and the Albany Academy swimmers joined with Reginald Anadio and Kyle Verstandig on a pair of first-place relays to lead the Cadets to their first outright team championship since 2013.

Ethan Ballard of Queensbury earned the Coaches Choice Award with victories in the 100 free (47.68) and 50 free (21.33), where the senior tied the sixth-fastest finals time on record.

Liam Picozzi, Ryan Board, Alex Turczyn and Jacob Hurteau of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake clocked a Section II-record 1:35.49 in winning the 200 medley relay. Shenendehowa (1:36.11) had held the record since the 2014 season.

Team scores

Shenendehowa 503, Bethlehem 352, Niskayuna 301, Shaker 262, Ballston Spa 211, Saratoga Springs 165, Guilderland/Voorheesville 154, Schenectady 133, Albany 54.
200 medley relay — Shenendehowa (Joey Homan, Brian Harding, Jackson Homan, Josh Tsai), 1:36.21; Ballston Spa, 1:39.36; Guilderland/Voorheesville, 1:40.23; Bethlehem, 1:40.66; Shaker, 1:42.06.
200 free — Brendan Cartwright (BC), 1:43.90; Clayton Bennice (BS), 1:43.99; Adam Kogan (Shen), 1:44.63; Ian McElrath (Shak), 1:45.31; George Enright (Shak), 1:45.57.
200 IM — Joey Homan (Shen), 1:52.88; Connor Doyle (BC), 1:55.65; Jackson Homan (Shen), 1:57.40; Steven Yu (Shak), 1:57.41; Brian Harding (Shen), 1:57.47.
50 free — Joseph Gravino (GV), 21.78; Bryan Liu (Nisk), 21.92; Josh Tsai (Shen), 22.02; Maxwell Bent (Sch), 22.22; Brendan Cartwright (BC), 22.37.
100 fly — Zac Zwijacz (Sara), 50.10; Neil Horne (Nisk), 50.47; Ethan Bachert (Nisk), 52.87; Jackson Homan (Shen), 53.01; Nick Salzone (Shen), 53.61.
100 free — Joseph Gravino (GV), 47.51; Clayton Bennice (BS), 47.64; Josh Tsai (Shen), 47.78; Bryan Liu (Nisk), 49.19; Nate Marron (Sara), 49.29.
500 free — Ian McElrath (Shak), 4:48.21; Nick Salzone (Shen), 4:49.81; George Enright (Shak), 4:49.86; Adam Kogan (Shen), 4:50.02; Scott Ward (Nisk), 4:53.61.
200 free relay — Niskayuna (Neil Horne, Ethan Bachert, Scott Ward, Bryan Liu), 1:27.27; Bethlehem, 1:29.09; Shenendehowa, 1:29.39; Shaker, 1:29.85; Ballston Spa, 1:30.47.
100 back — Joey Homan (Shen), 51.41; Neil Horne (Nisk), 52.20; Zac Zwijacz (Sara), 53.10; Connor Doyle (BC), 53.19; Nate Marron (Sara), 55.30.
100 breast — Steven Yu (Shak), 58.69; Tanner Damico (BS), 59.11; Kaleb Hotaling (Shen), 1:00.23; Brian Hotaling (Shen), 1:00.48; Maxwell Bent (Sch), 1:01.00.
400 free relay — Shenendehowa (Josh Tsai, Joey Homan, Kaleb Hotaling, Adam Kogan), 3:10.68; Shaker, 3:14.49; Bethlehem, 3:15.69; Niskayuna, 3:15.72; Saratoga Springs, 3:24.53.

Team scores

Albany Academy 356, Queensbury 336, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake 316, Glens Falls 277, Mohonasen/Schalmont 176, Fonda/Johnstown 144, Gloversville 137, Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk 135, Canajoharie/Fort Plain 125, Taconic Hills 57, Amsterdam 37, CBA 37, LaSalle 29, Averill Park 12, Maple Hill 10.
200 medley relay – Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (Liam Picozzi, Ryan Board, Alex Turczyn, Jacob Hurteau), 1:35.49; Queensbury, 1:41.50; Glens Falls, 1:46.54.
200 free – Timothy Maggs (CBA), 1:45.46; David Walton (Q), 1:50.69; Alex Turczyn (BH), 1:51.33.
200 IM – Trevor Askew (FJ), 1:55.63; Ryan Board (BH), 1:58.05; Brandon Bardin (BH), 1:59.85.
50 free – Ethan Ballard (Q), 21.33; Tucker Besch (AA), 21.90; Thomas Brosnihan (LSI), 22.01.
100 fly – Tucker Besch (AA), 50.88; Jordan Harris (RCS), 51.84; Liam Picozzi (BH), 52.16.
100 free – Ethan Ballard (Q), 47.68; Timothy Maggs (CBA), 48.05; Joe Trembley (CFP), 49.00.
500 free – Bryce Henkel (AA), 4:50.21; David Walton (Q), 4:57.30; Alex Turczyn (BH), 5:07.02.
200 free relay – Albany Academy (Tucker Besch, Reginald Anadio, Bryce Henkel, Kyle Verstandig), 1:28.15; Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, 1:29.06; Queensbury, 1:30.14.
100 back – Liam Picozzi (BH), 51.65; Jordan Harris (RCS), 53.66; Sean Ash (GF), 57.84.
100 breast – Ryan Board (BH), 57.64; Trevor Askew (FJ), 59.73; Thomas Knack (Amst), 1:02.60.
400 free relay – Albany Academy (Tucker Besch, Reginald Anadio, Bryce Henkel, Kyle Verstandig), 3:18.51; Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, 3:29.41; Glens Falls, 3:30.42.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 395-3143, or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.