BUFFALO, NY - The 2013-14 swimming and diving season began Saturday morning, with the Bulls hosting the annual Western New York Invite. The event featured swimmers and divers from McMaster University out of Hamilton, Ontario, St. Bonaventure, Niagara, Buffalo State, and UB. Dan O'Connor provided the highlight of the day, setting a program record in the 1000-yard freestyle.
For the men, the senior transfer O'Connor and sophomore Bill Caffee finished first and third, respectively, in the 500-yard free. For the 200-yard IM, sophomores Antonio Lanzi and Billy Patrum came in second and fourth, respectively, with Scott Huang and Matt Bitara finishing right behind them. Patrum would later claim the 200-yard fly by more than a second, in a time of 1:54.02. In the 50-yard free sprint, senior Tommy Steele bested a fast field with a time of 21.35. Huang had one of the best finishes of the morning session on the UB men's team, beating McMaster's Konrad Bald in the 100-yard breaststroke. Bald is a returning silver medalist in the CIS championships, the Canadian equivalent of the NCAA championships.
To end the morning session, two more freshman swimmers claimed titles for UB. Barry Charles routed the field in the 200-yard backstroke in a time of 1:54.43, winning by almost five seconds over Jacob Hoffman-Glennon, who finished second. Eric Jensen won the 200-yard free to cap the morning competition, winning with a time of 1:42.40.
The afternoon session started with a raucous finish to the 1000-yard free, with O'Connor quickly staking himself to a record-setting pace. He would finish in a time of 9:20.29, almost a full second faster than the previous record time. He highlighted a race where the Bulls took the top four places (with Caffee second, Reid Zyniekci third, and Callum Liddiard fourth).
"I think it goes to show that he's really enjoying himself, and with that comes two really good swims for this part of the season," head coach Andy Bashor said. "Out of all of this, the reason why he did that was because of all the work he did in the summer. He's a different kind of swimmer, and we're so happy to have him on the team."
Also in the afternoon, Huang won the 200-yard breaststroke by more than six seconds over classmate Joe Martin. He ended a busy first day of competition with a title in the 400-yard IM (winning in 4:05.68).
In the final event of the day, a solid anchor from Steele in the 200-yard freestyle relay helped to lead the Bulls to a win in the event. He was joined by Lanzi, Jensen, and Aaron Durrance.
The women's team, relying on a talented group of underclassmen for the day, enjoyed early success. The 200-yard medley relay 'A' team of Gloria Melofchik, Cristina Czyrka, Courtney Cook and Brittney Kuras edged out McMaster's relay team with a time of 1:49.79. In the first individual event of the morning session, freshman Brittney Walters won the 500-yard free, posting her second-best split in the final push to earn the win. Fellow freshman Nicole Rodriguez swam a competitive 200-yard backstroke race, finishing second overall in a final sprint that saw the top three swimmers touch within a second of each other.
Meanwhile, the senior Kuras picked up right where she left off last season, with two individual wins to go with the relay victory in the morning session. She won by more than a second in the 50-yard free, winning with a time of 23.47. She then swam a time of 1:05.98 in the 100-yard breaststroke to win by more than two seconds. She then opened the afternoon session with a win in the 100-yard free and took home the 100 fly. To cap the day, she anchored the winning 200-yard freestyle relay with Melofchik, Cook, and Becky Evangelista.
Other winners for UB included Czyrka, who claimed a commanding win in the 200-yard breaststroke, with a time of 2:24.99 that was almost five seconds better than second place.
On the boards, freshman Katarina Chang placed third and Mackenzie Moss finished second in the three-meter dive, and Chang would place fourth and Moss fifth in the one meter competition. For the men, UB placed five divers in the top six of the one meter, with Chris Iafrati winning, Derek Linebaugh placing second, Derek McAninch fourth, Cade Bennett fifth and Troy Birdsall sixth. In the three meter, the Bulls claimed the top four finishes, with Iafrati first, McAninch second, Linebaugh third and Bennett fourth.
"We saw a lot of young mistakes out there, but its October, we have a long way to go to take those mistakes and make them positives," Bashor said. "It's going to be exciting to watch the young guys gel this year with the upper classmen and make this team what it can be."