They've broken the records, earned several individual league, class and sectional championships and established themselves as among the top swimmer and diver in all of New York state.
Now it's time for one great, grand finale.
The Lockport swim Lions improved to a Niagara Frontier League-best 9-0 on Friday, but the big news around Locks 34 and 35 are LHS senior stalwarts Mark Crocker and Jake Minnick, who are both sailing impressively towards their third straight state swim meet appearances — March 6-7 at the Nassau County Aquatic Center on Long Island.
Crocker's record setting performance on Friday night and another Minnick 300 points-plus effort helped propel John Sullivan's swim Lions to a 122-63 NFL victory over coach Mike Corsaro's visiting Niagara-Wheatfield Falcons (4-6 NFL).
Crocker exploded out of the gates in the 50-yard freestyle, shattering Brad Brunne's 42-year-old LHS school mark of :21.82 by almost a half second, finishing in :21.38. Crocker wasn't finished yet, setting a new school, pool and league record in the 100 butterfly, winning in :51.08. That old record was :51.91, set by Nick Revelas in 1988.
“I've always been trying to get that 50 free record, ever since I was a freshman,” Crocker said. “I missed qualifying for states by one tenth of a second, then made it in my sophomore and junior year. In my senior year, I just wanted to put in 100 percent and leave nothing behind.”
The highly-recruited Crocker said he's looking at a number of Division 1 and 2 schools, but added that right now, Geneseo is high on his list of possible choices.
“I don't like to be told that I'm not capable of doing something. That really motivates me to get into the gym more,” Crocker said. “Success doesn't come without pain. Yes, sometimes going to practices stinks and it really hurts, but in the end, it's worth it.”
Crocker's record-setting performance also lifted him higher into the state overall rankings. Crocker is now ranked third in the state in the 50 free and second in the 100 butterfly, based on the fastest times recorded so far this winter. He finished 9th in the fly and 20h in the 50 sprint at states last year.
“Mark's been revving up this week for this meet,” Sullivan said. “ We've been trying to not get too high or too low, He did a really nice job and achieved some goals of his.”
Meanwhile, Minnick was spectacular once again, delighting those watching from both schools with another complicated array of high-degree twists and turns. He finished with 303.15 points. Junior teammate Andrew Moran was second (216.60) and Carter Scofield of the Falcons was third (144.60).
“Jake and Andrew give us a great 1-2 punch and that's a real strength that we have,” Sullivan said.
Minnick hasn't lost a league meet in more than two years. He's currently ranked in the top 10 in the state and his goal is to place as high as possible.
“A top 10 is the goal again, but I'm just going to go as high as I can,” said Minnick, who placed 12th last year at states and was 16th the year before.
LHS diving coach Jasper Adams said he's going to miss Jake's leadership, talent and overall presence at practices.
“I've had him since eighth grade and yes, I'm going to miss him,” Adams said.
“He's been out on a few college recruiting trips. I think D-2 is a good fit for him, but Jake likes to be challenged. I'd like to see him end up in the top six at states. He's probably right around there now. You can't use points as the only guide to judge who's better. Until you put these kids head to head, you never know. Some judges and some sections are easier and some are tougher. All I can say he's one of the best boys divers I've had in the last 30 years.”
And while the veterans Crocker and Minnick continued to shine, the future looks bright as well for the blue and gold with freshman Aidan Morgan, already a sectional qualifier. Morgan won two individual events, the 100 backstroke (1:01.05) and 200 individual medley (2:17.80); and was a member of the winning LHS medley relay team.
N-W freshman Paul Wissel won the 200 free in 1:55.53 and the 500 free in 5:14.04. Lions senior Ramsey Ross won the 100 free in :52.24 and senior teammate Colin Connolly won the 100 breast in 1:12.21.
Follow veteran US&J sports writer and editor John D'Onofrio on Twitter at @JohnD'Onofrio7.