The Frontier League will make its return to the state boys swimming meet this weekend.
Watertown’s 200-yard medley relay of Drew Wekar, Zach Kilburn, Bennett Pistner and Xander Gaige, along with Indian River senior diver Calvin Eggleston, will represent the league at the NYSPHSAA meet Friday and Saturday at Ithaca College. They will be joined by Gouverneur’s Riley Sheppard and Canton’s Luis Rodriguez Guerrero from the Northern Athletic Conference at the meet.
EGGLESTON DIVES INTO STATES
Eggleston becomes the first Indian River swim team member since Brandon Hunneyman qualified in 2010 and first diver since Chad Drake in 2008 to reach the state meet. The Warriors’ senior has been working for six years to reach the state’s big event. Eggleston hit the state qualifying standard when he won the Section 3 Class B meet Feb. 11 at Nottingham High School.
He scored an 11-dive total of 476.10 to eclipse the state standard of 450. Indian River’s coaches tracked each dive to see if Eggleston was on pace. About halfway through, Eggleston had a feeling he was going to qualify during the round.
“About halfway in I was scoring really good and I knew I had a chance,” Eggleston said.
Eggleston got to his last dive needing a good score to qualify and nailed it. Once he finished his dive, he knew that he’d sealed state qualification.
“I was 50 points away on my last dive and as soon as I hit the water, I knew I made states,” Eggleston said.
Longtime Indian River coach Alan Baker said that Eggleston took his diving on the road and competed at Syracuse-area meets. That helped the veteran diver show his ability to the judges who would be evaluating him at the sectional and state qualifiers.
“We did four 11-dive meets down in Syracuse and those judges got used to seeing him,” Baker said. “It was good to bring him down and see him.”
Frontier League divers usually have a hard time qualifying for states with the talented divers coming from the Syracuse area. However, Eggleston raised his game to win the Class B tournament.
“Working with those divers really helped him out,” assistant coach Marcia Pawling said. “They help each other and they make each other improve.”
Even rival schools like Watertown have been impressed with Eggleston’s progress this season. Watertown coach Tom Graban is glad to see other schools in the league make the trip downstate.
“I’m excited that Calvin made it (to states),” Graban said. “He’s a great diver and I’ve been following over the last couple years.”
Eggleston is hoping to dive in college and that’s something some he didn’t think would happen. He’s eyeing a strong end to his high school career.
“We’re hoping for him to get top 16 or higher,” Baker said.
WHS RELAY RETURNS TO STATES
Watertown returns to the state meet after a couple years away due to COVID and narrowly missing qualification. The Cyclones missed out on last season’s event by .06 seconds in the 200 medley relay after being edged out by Mexico. Losing out by that thin of a margin didn’t sit well.
“They came back this year and they were hungry and training hard,” Graban said.
The Cyclones have been a on a season-long quest to return to states, trying to make the state standard of 1:40.67 in the 200 medley relay. They finally did it at the state qualifying meet.
“We started seeing all the splits throughout the race and I thought we were going to get it this time,” said Zach Kilburn, who is making his third trip to states.
Graban and the rest of the team were tracking the race and was on track after great opening legs from Kilburn and Bennett Pistner. Drew Wekar then got into the pool and turned in a personal best 50-yard time of 27.29 in the butterfly.
“I felt like all that hard work every day paid off,” Wekar said, “I looked up and say my time and said, ‘let’s go.’”
The Cyclones got a strong closing finish from sprint specialist Xander Gaige, who sealed qualification with a 50 freestyle mark of 22.14. Gaige knew they made states when he saw his teammates cheering.
“I was looking at the board wondering ‘what’s the time?,’ but then I saw my teammates jumping up and down, screaming and it was the best feeling ever,” Gaige said.
Watertown celebrated when the final times were posted and the relay was one of five teams to make states from Section 3. Being involved in such a fast race helped the Cyclones push through.
“That race reminded me of 2012 where eight teams all made it from five sections in the 400 freestyle relay,” Graban said.
The relay has put in plenty of hard work and that includes alternate Ike Woolcott, who has the hardest job of the team. He’s been training in all four strokes in case any of the quartet can’t race this weekend.
“Hopefully I won’t have to fill because they’ve all worked so hard,” Woolcott said. “But if anything happens, I’m ready.”
A high state finish would be a great cap to the season, but Watertown is eyeing one big goal. The Cyclones are hoping to get take down the school record of 1:37.43 held by MacLean Crossley, Sean Medina, Joey Ongkingco and Connor Way, set in 2000. Watertown will have to shave four seconds off its time to get that mark, but the squad is confident.
“Now that we made it to states, the pressure has lessened and we’ve got a good shot at getting that school record,” Pistner said.
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