It was a bit more suspenseful than Long Beach girls' swim coach Lynn Volosovech might have preferred.
In the last heat of the last event at the Nassau championships Nov. 3, the Lady Marines swam a season-best 3:42.35 in the 400-yard freestyle relay, qualifying for the state championships at Ithaca College this upcoming weekend. The clutch win ensured Long Beach its second straight five-event presence at the state meet, as three of its relay crew also qualified in individual races.
"We're sending the same number to state as last year," said Volosovech, whose team finished fifth in the county tournament. "Three of our swimmers qualified earlier this season. And we had our sights set on the relay. It was as close as it gets, but they finally made it on their last chance."
All-County Long Beach senior Kaley Skarren – last year’s county champ in the 200 free, and a two-time former All-American in relays – made the cut in both the 100 and 200 free, and will swim the relay’s key anchor leg. “Kaley’s our strongest swimmer,” Volosovech said of the University at Buffalo commit. “She sets a path for herself and stays on it, doesn’t get rattled.”
Thought to be one of Long Beach’s best bets at Ithaca, junior Isabella Defonte will swim the 100 backstroke – a race in which she’s ranked seventh in the state after finishing second at the Nassau meet (59:37) – and the 100 butterfly. “Isabella just sets her mind to it and goes,” Volosovech said. “She’s worked hard to get where she is. She’s in the pool as much as she’s out of it.”
Senior Emily McDonnell – an All-County honoree and team co-captain with Skarren – returns to state a third straight year in the 100 backstroke. “Emily’s tough,” Volosovech said. “She’s not big in size but she’s a dominant force.”
As Skarren, Defonte, and McDonnell went to state last year in the 400 free relay, the search for a fourth to complete this year’s crew lasted right up through midseason, when sophomore Livia Casalaina was tapped for the job. The decision came not a moment too soon, Volosovech said, as Casalaina’s relay splits improved even up to the buzzer-beater at county.
“I didn’t want Livia in the relay early on because we needed her for other events,” Volosovech said. “But when it was time, I asked if she was up to the challenge. She said, ‘Yes.’ And then she proved it.”
Senior Brooke Waller will travel upstate as a relay alternate for Long Beach, after her 200 free team missed making the cut by less than a half-second.
“The girls are ready,” Volosovech said. “But whatever happens, it’s been an honor coaching these phenomenal young ladies.”