CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. – The Bethlehem girls swimming and diving team are once again back on top of Division I swimming in Section II after more than a decade courtesy of a dominating performance Saturday during the Division I (large school) championships at Shenendehowa High School.
The Eagles, paced by the meet’s Most Outstanding Swimmer award winner, senior Sydney Sorbello, swept all three relay events on their way to a 55-point win over second-place Shenendehowa with Niskayuna further back, another 69 points in third-place.
For the past 11 years the girls swimming title belonged to either the Plainsmen or the Silver Warriors, on Saturday it got to fly home with the Eagles.
“They knew they had to swim with their heart and they did, every single one of them,” fourth-year coach Kerianne Sanicola said. “The ones that were sitting on the outside seeds knew they had to step up and every one of them did.
“The ones that were seeded high had to hold those spots and every one of them did and it just kind of ended up being that perfect story.”
A key to a perfect story is the ability to have it jump off of page one to keep the reader interested, Bethlehem’s protagonist again was Sorbello who swam the opening leg of the 400-individual medley relay to set the tone.
“One of the best things about Sydney Sorbello being a backstroker is she does start the meet for us,” Sanicola said. “How she approaches swimming and how she had fun with it is very contagious. That medley relay set us off with 'Oh, we can do this.'”
Sorbello was part of the Eagles opening relay winning squad, captured the 200-yard individual medley, and swam the opening leg of the 200-freestyle relay along with claiming the 100-backstroke title Saturday.
“I think everybody just stepped up and they knew what they had to do and we all just put our best foot forward and I couldn't be more proud of a group of girls,” Sydney Sorbello said. “Watching your teammates do well is so motivating for yourself and it was kind of reassuring for yourself, getting in the water and you know you can do that too.”
While Sorbello was continuously ahead of the rest of her competitors in the ‘A’ finals, it was the depth and the ability to add points that kept Bethlehem in front for the majority of the meet.
“A lot of our kids that were seeded 14th, 15th, 16th and even those seeded outside (scoring positions) how they needed to approach stuff,” Sanicola said. “A lot of 'relax, have fun, this is kind of what we do,' and they showed up.
“We weren't seeded with most of our 500-(yard) swimmers and they all showed up and then showed up again tonight.”
The Eagles saw eighth-grader Katherine Ferreira finish second in the grueling 500-yard freestyle, earning 17 points for Bethlehem while senior Rebecca Baldwin, sophomore Caitlin Valerian and senior Audrey Nadeau each added points in the ‘B’ final, earning a spot in the scoring finale from their work Friday during the preliminary swims.
“It's been incredible, we've worked hard together, we've suffered together and just to have this is such an amazing award,” Sorbello said.
For the meet hosts, Shenendehowa, second-place wasn't unfamiliar, losing previous titles to rival Niskayuna, but this year's second-place finish was palatable.
Last year we graduated eight seniors, some big names that are on the record board," Shenendehowa girls swimming coach Sandy Stanislowsky said. "For us to do as well as we did this season, it's tremendous.
"We have 11 girls going to states, we had great times, we just got outswum," Stanislowsky said. "Bethlehem did a great job, give them credit."
Like the Eagles, Shenendehowa's strength was in the distance events, led by junior Alison Sposili capturing the 500- in a New York State-meet qualifying time once again in 5;05.11 followed by Saratoga's Rachel Love in third at 5:09.48, eighth-grader Samantha Sands with her NYS qualifying time of 5:14.26 followed by the Silaika sisters, freshman Sophie and senior Bella rounding out the top eight finishers.
"Look at us in the 500, four getting into the top eight, certainly gave us a lot of points and kept us in the ball game," Stanislowsky said. "Alison (Sposili) she's only a junior, coming back next year, hopefully she'll continue her winning ways."
All of the Section II swimmers who met the New York State meet qualifying times throughout the year and at the weekend event will next travel to Ithaca College Nov. 22 and 23 for the NYSPHSAA swimming and diving meet.