Determined to defend its Section III Class A championship, the Liverpool boys swim team took its duel with Watertown to the final race on Thursday afternoon at Nottingham High School.
Ultimately, the Warriors fell just short in that quest, finishing with 344.5 points to the Cyclones’ total of 354.5 points, but it still saw freshman Curtis Merrick prevail in the 200-yard individual medley and senior Tom Griffin earn a trip to the state championship meet on Long Island March 3-4 in the 100-yard freestyle.
Merrick entered the sectional meet as the second seed in the 200 IM behind his teammate, junior J.J. Ross. But in this race, Merrick seized the lead and didn’t let Ross catch up, winning in two minutes, 5.37 seconds, improving his season-best effort by more than two seconds as Ross finished second in 2:07.33.
Griffin faced an enormous challenge in the 100 freestyle. Earlier, in the 50 freestyle, Watertown’s Maclean Crossley broke Drake Becksted’s five-year-old Section III record with a time of 20.37 seconds, and he was the favorite here, too.
Here, Crossley didn’t break any records, but still won in 45.67 seconds. Chasing him, Griffin improved on his best time of the winter and, in 48.56 seconds, beat the state qualifying standard of 48.76 seconds and took runner-up to Crossley, who was named the meet’s Most Outstanding Swimmer.
Ultimately, the meet came down to two relays. In the 200 freestyle relay, Griffin, Merrick, James Hunter and Matt Geary went 1:30.21 in the 200 freestyle (where it had already qualified for the state meet), but Crossley and Watertown prevailed in 1:27.14.
By the time they got to the 400 freestyle relay, Liverpool only trailed the Cyclones by four points. Griffin, Ross, Geary and Merrick posted 3:21.14, improving its best time of the winter by more than a second, but again was runner-up as Watertown, again with Crossley as the anchor, clinched the sectional title with a time of 3:13.72.
Just before that, in the 100 backstroke, Griffin, in 55.74 seconds, was second to Jamesville-DeWitt/CBA’s Owen Farchione (55.58 seconds), with Merrick fourth in 56.98 seconds as Kyle Richardson was seventh in 1:00.27.
Ross needed 55.30 seconds to finish third in the 100 butterfly, with Geary sixth in 58.12 seconds. Griffin O’Neil went 5:07.68 to finish fourth in the 500 freestyle as Tyler Hyde was ninth in 5:17.15.
To start the meet, Ross, O’Neil, Hunter and Dan Stapleton finished fourth in the 200 medley relay in 1:43.18. Right after, O’Neil was seventh in the 200 freestyle (1:53.69) as Geary finished fifth in 1:52.62.
Hunter took eighth place in the 50 freestyle in 23.35 seconds and was 10th (52.16 seconds) in the 100 freestyle. Stapleton was 11th in the 100 breaststroke in 1;06.96 as Wesley Turverey was 12th in 1:07.38 after an 11th-place effort in the 50 freestyle (23.53 seconds).
Cicero-North Syracuse, who finished sixth in the team standings with 155.5 points, started the meet by having Payton Connors, Owen Flaherty, Nate Ancona and Steve Cooley set a school record in the 200 medley relay with a time of 1:47.57, good for seventh place overall.
Yet the Northstars had a better finish in the 200 freestyle relay, getting sixth place as Ancona, Payrot, Cooley and Eli Ward going to a time of 1:33.97 and broke another school record by 0.01 seconds. In the 400 freestyle relay, Connors, Payrot, Ward and Nick Engell gained sixth place in 3:35.02.
Connors got eighth place in the 200 IM in 2:12.94, two spots ahead of Ancona (2:14.52) in 10th place, though Ancona improved to eighth (58.94 seconds) in the 100 butterfly.
In the 100 backstroke, Connors got ninth place in 1:01.12. Cooley tied Turvery for 11th in the 50 freestyle in 23.53 seconds and also was 11th in the 100 freestyle in 52.33 seconds, with Payrot 13th in 52.79 seconds.
Engell was 11th in the 500 freestyle, finishing in 5:27.24, and also was 13th (1:56.28) in the 200 freestyle. Flaherty was 15th in the 100 breaststroke in 1:09.44
Before all this, Brennan Mathews gave Liverpool a fourth-place finish in the diving competition with 394.40 points, just ahead of C-NS’s Michael Ferguson, who was fifth with 381.25 points. The Warriors’ Jesse Hartwell was 10th with 283.45 points.