East Hampton swimmers earn first League II title in team history

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Independent/Stephen J. Kotz

Ryan Bahel has never seen his East Hampton/Bridgehampton/Pierson swim team earn a League II title. That is, until now.

The senior is part of the best Bonackers batch in school history. The team went 9-0 overall and 7-0 in league play, capping the school’s first perfect season with a 55-45 win at West Islip January 16.

“West Islip has always been a quality team in the league, and one that we have gone back and forth with over the years,” said East Hampton head coach Craig Brierley, adding that it has been especially difficult to compete against the Lions in their four-lane pool. “That takes away some of our depth, but the luxury of this season’s team is we can balance a lineup to be able to compete in every event and hurt a team where they have any weakness. The boys were focused and ready to compete, understood their assignments, and knew what it would take to earn the win.”

East Hampton started by taking first and second in the 200-yard medley relay, which Bahel participated in.

“We’re a great unit — we’ve always been close — and everybody pulls their weight on the team,” Bahel said. “We practice two hours a day, five days a week, warm up with workouts on dry land every day from 3 to 3:30 PM, and practice in the pool from 3:30 to 5:30 PM and even have a 6 AM practice on Saturdays. Many of the swimmers also do their own workouts before practice. Everyone gives it their all every day to make sure we’re ready to compete.”

Even though West Islip took seven diving points, Bonacker swimmers took first in the next four events and finished 1-2 in the 200 freestyle relay to put the score at 46-29 in East Hampton’s favor.

“The coaches are so happy for the boys and what they have accomplished,” Brierley said. “Doing something no other Bonackers boys swim team has been able to do.”

Bahel and seniors Thor Botero, Ryan Duryea, Ramses Jimenez, Kenny Sanchez, Luke Tyrell, Jordan Uribe, and Ethan McCormac were honored on senior night during a 91-77 win over Sayville/Bayport January 14. The captains named freshman Kenny Sanchez swimmer of the meet after he swam the butterfly leg in the medley relay, the 500 freestyle, and the second leg of the 400 relay.

“Kenny has been an important part of the depth of the team and can play a role in many events,” Brierley said. “The captains were thrilled for Kenny. He dropped over eight seconds in the 500 free with a lifetime best 6:21 finish.”

Bahel and his Bonackers bested previous reigning league champion Hauppauge 89-79 during a home meet a few days prior, on January 10. It was a goal that was six years in the making.

“It was wonderful,” Bahel said of the winning. “There were so many people in the stands, so many people rooting for us to win. I don’t think anyone on our team sat down the entire time.”

He pointed to the team’s depth and talent in new eighth graders, some of whom are club swimmers, as reasons for success along with McCormac’s low 200 freestyle time for first place.

“He dropped a very sufficient amount of time in that event and came out beating Hauppauge’s best swimmer,” Bahel said. “That was huge.”

The seniors also helped East Hampton take first, second, and fourth in the 200 freestyle relay, which buried Hauppauge for good.

“Sayville and Hauppauge were previously the two best teams in the league,” Bahel said. “Facing some less challenging teams in the beginning of the season leading up to those matches built up a lot of pressure late, but I think it’s good for everyone. Our team is one of the most well-prepared swim teams out there. Swimming is tough mentally, and our coach 100 percent of the time is teaching us about character, how we have to act when we step up on the blocks — really preparing us for that moment.”

The senior is eligible for the 100 backstroke at the individual county tournament, while McCormac boasts several state-qualifying times, but the Bonackers will first compete in the League II championships at Hauppauge January 31 at 4:15 PM.

“It’s been a wonderful ride,” Bahel said. “I have a love-hate relationship with swimming. I hate it because it’s brutal, but I could never stop. It’s such a big, integral part of my life. As a freshman I dreamed of being a captain and living out this dream of a league championship — this season is a season that will go down in history.”

desiree@indyeastend.com