Young, promising swim Lions open NFL season this week
By John D'Onofrio Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
With the meat of his starting line-up lost to graduation and just one returning starting senior this season, you know it isn’t going to be a sprint to the finish for head coach John Sullivan’s Lockport swim Lions this winter. It’s the start of a marathon two-year plan.
The swim Lions finished 12-2 in the Niagara Frontier League (12-3 overall) and were fourth in the Class A Championships a year ago, led by state qualifier (50 freestyle) Garrett Sheehan, Mike Stroud, Phil Crane and Andrew Wojcinski, all lost to graduation. Lockport opens its 2012-13 NFL slate at 5 p.m. today, hosting Kenmore East.
“Each one of the 11 seniors we lost to graduation is missed and I’ve had frank conversations about this team and the program,” Sullivan said. “I tell the boys every week that this will not be a sprint to the finish, but a two-year marathon. No one needs a big performance. Sure, I’d like to see as many guys as possible qualify for the class meet and sectional meets in February and see if we can get some state qualifiers, but the most important thing is looking at the next two years as one long season. This year, we’re trying to replace 11 graduated seniors and maybe find some new pieces to the puzzle.”
Participation numbers are up, Sullivan said, and are as high as they were six to eight years ago. This year’s 35-man Lions’ varsity swim roster features two seniors, nine juniors, seven sophomores, 11 freshmen, four eighth graders and two seventh graders.
Among the many key returners are senior diver Sean Kearns (fifth last year at NFLs), junior sprint freestyler Derek Secord, sophomore butterflyer Scott Guyton and athletic 6-3 junior sectional hopeful Shawn Moore, fresh off a strong season on the volleyball court.
“Shawn can do a little bit of everything. He just keeps growing,” Sullivan said. “He has an incredible leaping ability off the block. He’s so far ahead of people, his hands are hitting the water about five yards off the block and he gets from one end of the pool to the other with a lot fewer strokes than his competition and that’s a lot less energy expended.”
Among the swimmers Sullivan is hoping will have breakout seasons this winter include juniors Chris Lachell, Jack Whalen Bryan and Jeffrey Wojcinski, sophomores Michael Dmochowski and John Patterson; and freshmen Austin Hinton and Cole Twomey.
“Some of these guys had great junior varsity careers last season. We’ll see how they respond to varsity training and competition,” Sullivan said. “They’re great competitors, so I think by the end of this year, they’ll all be strong assets for us.”
Sullivan, who captured NFL titles in 2000, 2003 and 2005 and a VI title in 2005, is beginning his 13th season as the LHS boy’s varsity swim head coach. He is a social studies teacher at LHS.