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Swimming

Christopher O’Shea races to the finish line in the U.S. Open. Photo from Kelley O’Shea

By Kevin Redding

When he was 9 years old, recent Rocky Point High School graduate Christopher O’Shea was encouraged by a friend to try out for the Three Village Swim Club team in East Setauket.

His mom was surprised at his newfound interest in swimming, because, as she recalled, he was deathly afraid of the water not too long before.

“We could never figure out why he hated the water so much, he just always cried,” Kelley O’Shea said.

Whatever it was disappeared quickly.

Jason Louser swims the breaststroke. Photo from Jason Louser

“He tried out for the team and made it,” she said. “He really loved it. And the rest, as they say, is history. Now it’s his life.”

O’Shea, 18, a two-time All-America swimmer who graduated in the spring, was one of just two Suffolk County high school competitors in the 2017 U.S. Open Swimming Championships at the Nassau County Aquatic Center in Eisenhower Park, East Meadow, held Aug. 2-6.

He and Shoreham-Wading River junior Jason Louser joined the best swimmers in the country, including 12-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte, in the largest single-tank pool in the country for the biggest event of their athletic careers.

O’Shea, who swam the 100-meter long course butterfly Friday and 100 long course backstroke Saturday, placed 68th with a time of 57.38 seconds and 58th in 58.71, respectively. Lochte placed fifth in the same backstroke event.

The Rocky Point grad, who considered this event “the baby steps” toward the Olympic trials, said he couldn’t believe his luck upon entering the massive Nassau facility.

“Oh, I was completely ecstatic,” O’Shea said of the experience. “Typically when you go to a swim meet you’re with people on your level, but when you’re going to this worldwide meet and there’s not only the French national team and a bunch of guys from Australia, but then Ryan Lochte and other Olympians, it was surreal. I didn’t believe I would ever be able to see these people in person let alone swim in the same pool as them.”

He had previously qualified to compete, based on his time, in the Senior Metropolitan Long Course Summer Championships July 22.

Christopher O’Shea swims the backstroke in the U.S. Open. Photo from Kelley O’Shea

Louser, 16, who represented his Long Island Aquatic Club in Garden City, competed in the 200 long course breaststroke, 100 long course breaststroke, 400 long course individual medley and 200 long course individual medley during the meet. He echoed O’Shea’s awe, especially when it came to seeing Lochte.

“The first time I saw him was astonishing,” Louser said. “I was just thinking, ‘I’m swimming in the same meet as him and this is kind of crazy.’ Everyone’s crazy good at the U.S. Open and it’s also very intimidating because there are college coaches around.”

O’Shea was also nervous as he warmed up for his first race, competing alongside top swimmers from around the country.

“Being such a small fish in a giant pond, it was a lot to take in,” he said. “The aquatic center was covered with posters and flags and signs, so it made it all the more better. It made it seem all the more official that we were actually there. It was intense and I had to get into a mental focus.”

But O’Shea has gone above and beyond to earn his spot among the best.

He won the 100 butterfly at the state championship and placed second in the 100 backstroke in March, and won the county championship in the backstroke and 200 freestyle last winter.

Rounding out his ninth and final year on the Three Village Swim Club team, as he’ll be attending Eastern Michigan University on a swimming scholarship this fall, O’Shea has maintained a rigorous schedule to prepare for the U.S. Open.

Christopher O’Shea smiles in his Three Village Swim Club team uniform. Photo from Kelley O’Shea

This summer, the daily process has been waking up at 5 a.m., eating breakfast and driving 25 minutes to train at the Aquatic Center for two hours from 6 to 8 a.m. After practice, he’d go to work at the summer buddies program at the North Shore Youth Council and give private half-hour swimming lessons to kids between the ages 4 and 12 at home. Then, he heads to the gym, go back home, and repeat.

“This is a sport you can’t give up on because once you do, it’s over,” he said. “A lot of people do give up and I don’t want to be one of those people. That keeps pushing me along.”

Both O’Shea and Louser beat the odds in becoming successful. Neither Rocky Point nor Shoreham school districts have a pool or official swim team, so the two had to work extra hard and go the distance to practice.

Despite an apparent lack of interest, O’Shea said the tide is starting to turn. Some of his friends came out to watch him compete over the weekend, which was a big deal to him as they’d never come to a meet before. Even younger members of the Three Village Swim Club arrived with signs and cheers.

“Now that they’ve heard that Chris is swimming with Ryan Lochte, they’re thinking, ‘Wow, he must be really good,’” his mom said, laughing. “It’s pretty cool to see how everyone’s changing their attitude, and I couldn’t ask for anything better in a son. We are continually surprised and thrilled with his achievements.”

Reflecting on how far he’s come, O’Shea said, “When I started swimming it was just a ‘Let’s see how it goes’ kind of thing, and now a few years down the line, I find myself competing against the world’s best … it’s really something else.”

The Huntington-Harborfields swimmers display their league championship award. Photo from Huntington athletics

It was a championship season worth celebrating.

The combined Huntington-Harborfields boys’ swimming and diving team captured regular season and postseason championships while solidifying its roster for future campaigns.

Swimmers, divers and their parents celebrated the winter campaign during a three-hour party at the Halesite Fire Department.

The season marked Meg McConnell’s first as head coach, after she assumed leadership of the program following the retirement of Huntington’s founding swim coach, Gil Smith. McConnell had been Smith’s assistant for many years. Blue Devils alum Kaitlyn Larkin was named the new assistant coach this season.

The dinner was a festive gathering. Michael Greaves, of Harborfields, created a slideshow of season highlights.

Huntington senior and team co-captain Matthew McBride and seniors Jackson Spector and Burak Toprak were among those who spoke about the season and their teammates and coaches. Those who notched All-League, All-County and All-State honors were acknowledged.

“It was a fun, funny and a great night,” Huntington parent Patti Weber said. “They are a great group of boys who really have become one team.”

The Blue Devils finished with a 4-1 league mark and went 4-4 overall, easily winning the Suffolk County League II championships by outdistancing runners-up Northport and Connetquot, 309 and 257, while Lindenhurst (187), Central Islip (140) and North Babylon (98) trailed in the distance.

Huntington-Harborfields defeated Lindenhurst (61-39), Connetquot/East Islip (95-88), Central Islip (100-77) and North Babylon (95-54), and dropped meets to Northport (51.5-49.5), Ward Melville (93-89), Hauppauge (107.5-77.5) and Half Hollow Hills (92-86) leading up to the League II win.

In addition to McBride, Spector, Toprak and Javier Vias, the Blue Devils team included seventh-graders Kyle Kennelly and Thomas Rosselli, eighth-grader Christopher Weber, freshmen Henry Cartwright, Nathaniel Gamboa and Thomas Peer, junior Keegan Dunne and senior Ryan LaBella. Juniors Noelle Harvey and Camille Stafford were team managers.

Three Huntington swimmers were presented with special team awards at the dinner. Gamboa was named MVP, Weber earned Most Improved honors and Dunne garnered the coaches award.

Huntington’s highlights at the League II championships included Gamboa swimming the second leg on the 200-yard medley relay that placed second and capturing third place in the 100 breaststroke, Weber placing second in the 500 freestyle, Peer finishing fourth in the 200 freestyle and the first leg of the 200 freestyle relay that finished fourth, and McBride placing fourth in the 100 backstroke.

At the Suffolk County championships, Gamboa swam the second leg of the 200 yard medley relay that placed ninth, and Peer swam the fourth leg of the 200 freestyle relay that finished 13th.

With eight underclassmen returning next winter, the Blue Devils hope to put another competitive team in the pool.

— Huntington Athletics

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Ashley Hart competes in the 100-meter backstroke, where she placed second with a time of one minute, 13.21 seconds. The Patriots lost, 97-81, to Half Hollow Hills on Oct. 9.Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Unlike years past, the girls swimming team of Ward Melville tasted something it hasn’t sampled in many years — a defeat.

The defending Suffolk County champions fell at Half Hollow Hills, 97-81, Friday afternoon in a League I meet, for the Patriot’s third loss of the season.

Ward Melville head coach Chris Gordon said that in the past, his team would field three or four swimmers in every event, but after losing more than a dozen seniors to graduation this year, this season’s team does not have the depth that past teams in the Patriots’ swimming dynasty had.

Liliana Ayer, who placed second in diving, tumbles off the one-meter board during the Patriots' 97-81 loss to Half Hollow Hills on Oct. 9. Photo by Bill Landon
Liliana Ayer, who placed second in diving, tumbles off the one-meter board during the Patriots’ 97-81 loss to Half Hollow Hills on Oct. 9. Photo by Bill Landon

“You saw it here today — they took second, third and fourth in several events, and when you can do that, you’re going to win the meet,” Gordon said of Half Hollow Hills.

Senior co-captain Katie Wang competed in the 200 medley, 50 freestyle and 200 freestyle.

“I felt good in the water,” she said. “I’ve been [focusing] on my technique.”

Placing second in the diving competition was freshman Liliana Ayer, and third place went to fellow freshman Hannah Goldhaber. Rounding out fourth place was the senior Jennifer Yavid, who is playing in her fourth season on the varsity squad.

Junior Ashley Hart competed in the 100-meter backstroke, where she placed second with a time of one minute, 13.21 seconds.

Senior so-captain Casey Gavigan easily won the 200-meter individual medley in 2:27.30, a performance that qualified her for a spot in the NYSPHSAA Championship competition in Ithaca in November. Gavigan has also qualified for the state championship in the 100 backstroke, and will look to defend her title in that event as the reigning state champion.

The co-captain said that despite her personal success, it’s been difficult for the team to live up to its reputation.

“After our championship season last year, we have a huge title to look up to, so it’s a lot of pressure,” Gavigan said. “But so long as all of the girls try their best, the coaches and we as captains are proud of them, and they should be proud of themselves.”

Ward Melville will host Brentwood next, on Thursday. The meet is scheduled to start at 4:15 p.m.

Young bathers dive into the waters of a newly reopened beach at the Centerport Yacht Club. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The county health department warned locals on Friday against bathing at 25 Huntington area beaches, the morning after heavy rainfall drenched the North Shore.

According to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, it issued the advisory because the rain could have led to bacteria levels in the water that exceed state standards.

“The beaches covered by the advisory are located in areas that are heavily influenced by stormwater runoff from the surrounding watersheds and/or adjacent tributaries,” the department said in a press release, “and, because of their location in an enclosed embayment, experience limited tidal flushing.”

Affected beaches include Eagle Dock Community Beach, Cold Spring Harbor Beach Club beach, West Neck Beach, Lloyd Neck Bath Club beach, Lloyd Harbor Village Park beach, Gold Star Battalion Park beach, Head of the Bay Club beach, Nathan Hale Beach Club beach, Baycrest Association beach, Bay Hills Beach Association beach, Crescent Beach, Knollwood Beach Association beach, Fleets Cove Beach, Centerport Beach, Huntington Beach Community Association beach, Centerport Yacht Club beach, Steers Beach, Asharoken Beach, Hobart Beach (both the Long Island Sound and cove sides), Crab Meadow Beach, Wincoma Association beach, Valley Grove Beach, Prices Bend Beach and Callahans Beach.

The advisory was scheduled to be lifted at 9 p.m. on Friday, to give enough time for two tidal cycles to clear out the water. However, the health department said the advisory would not be lifted if water samples from the affected beaches showed continued high levels of bacteria.

For up-to-date information on the affected beaches, call the health department’s bathing beach hotline at 631-852-5822 or visit the beach monitoring webpage.

Annual Asharoken swim to benefit Alzheimer's disease research raises more than $6,000

By Talia Amorosano

On Tuesday morning, more than 20 kayakers and swimmers gathered for the 12th Annual Distant Memories Swim, an event created and organized by Bryan Proctor, a Harborfields physical education teacher, to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. Participants traveled two nautical miles from Asharoken Beach in Northport to Knollwood Beach in Huntington and were cheered on by family members and supporters who waited and watched the event from shore. This year’s event has raised more than $6,000 for the Alzheimer’s Disease Resource Center so far, and over the course of its existence, has raised over $100,000. Organizers hope that the money will eventually help researchers find a cure for this increasingly prevalent disease.

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