Owen McCormac is dominating the 50-yard freestyle.
The East Hampton senior has swum to the top of the leaderboard in all three of his Bonacker team’s meets this season, and took first in the 100 freestyle twice. He doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
“I feel OK about it,” McCormac said, laughing. “Obviously, we haven’t been training as much, but nobody’s beat me yet, so the practices are working.”
Head coach Craig Brierley said he has noticed his co-captain’s steadiness despite some overall team struggles, as the Bonackers, comprised of swimmers from East Hampton, Sag Harbor, Bridgehampton and Montauk, dropped to 0-3 on the season.
“Owen has been consistently swimming his heart out in four events each meet,” the coach said, “while consistently motivating and supporting his teammates.”
What proved difficult to overcome was the loss of several top players across the first week of the season, including co-captains Colin Harrison and Jack Duryea. Harrison, an East Hampton senior, had his wisdom teeth removed Saturday, and Duryea, a Pierson senior, faced a mandatory quarantine due to COVID-19 contact tracing.
“I hope to be back in the pool soon,” Harrison said. “We’re short a lot of athletes, but the ones who can compete have been performing admirably.”
One of those players is fellow senior and co-captain Fernando Menjura, who has also been an asset while shaving off time this season. He broke his personal best in the 100 butterfly twice in a row, and is now the second fastest on the team in that event.
“I think he will take me down very soon,” Harrison said of his Pierson teammate.
In a 94-54 loss at Hauppauge to kick off the season January 27, Menjura touched the wall in 56.23 seconds, good for second place, to cut 2.15 seconds off his 100 fly time. The following day, in a 75-70 loss to Northport in the first home meet of the season, he swam the event in 56.03, and nabbed first place.
Menjura was also part of the 200 medley relay, along with Harrison, McCormac and Pierson senior co-captain Joey Badilla, that opened the Hauppauge meet with a first-place win, finishing the event in 1:46 flat. Menjura also continues to make improvements in the 50 free, as he shaved 0.1 seconds off his personal best with a 22.47 finish in his anchor leg.
He followed close behind McCormac’s 22.77 seconds in the 50 free during the Hauppauge meet to take second with a time of 23.13. In the team’s 80-69 loss to West Islip in the Bonackers’ third straight meet of the week, Menjura once again placed second (23.55) to McCormac (23.22). McCormac, swimming the breaststroke, cut his personal record down 2 seconds, to 30.97 in the meet against visiting West Islip. His younger brother Aidan, Menjura and East Hampton junior Daniel Piver made up the rest of the quartet.
The day prior, Piver swam best times in all three of his events against Northport — the 200 and 500 freestyle and swimming the third leg of the 400 free relay.
“He was one of the standouts,” Brierley said. “Because of his efforts and ability to hold down the team’s distance events, the captains wanted to be sure to award Daniel.”
Piver went on to place first in the 500 freestyle against West Islip on Friday, touching the wall in 5:41.62, and second in the 200 freestyle in 2:12.46. He was the only Bonacker to place in both events.
“He swims the most laps in almost every meet,” Harrison said.
The Bonackers also boast four swimmers from Montauk this season — Noah and Ben Berkhofer, Luke Tyrell and Charlie Weimar — and the senior said he’d be remiss if he did not also recognize their efforts.
“I have been watching them closely at practice and swim meets,” the co-captain said. “For new swimmers with very little practice, they have been swimming extremely fast, and I know they will be a great foundation to the team after the other seniors and I leave.”
McCormac echoed that every swimmer stepped up when faced with the difficult task of competing three days in a row with limited practice, but pointed to his younger brother Emmet, as well as East Hampton’s Daniel Rossano and Remo Mancini, for swimming “incredibly hard races” while still contributing points to the team.
Emmet McCormac and Rossano were part of the 200 freestyle relay that placed third against Hauppauge, and Mancini part of the quartet that finished fourth in the same event. McCormac, with his fourth-place finish in the 100 freestyle against Northport, shaved 1.1 seconds off his personal best, and swam in the fourth-place finishing 200 free relay. Mancini swam in the 400 freestyle relay that placed second in 4:40.54 that day, and the next, swam personal bests in the 100 freestyle as part of the second-place 400 free relay — with Emmet and Aidan McCormac — and 50 freestyle as part of the fourth-place 200 free relay, with Rossano. Rossano also placed first in the 400 freestyle relay and Mancini and Emmet McCormac finished fourth in the 200 medley relay.
Brierley said all his student-athletes are quickly learning to come together as a team, and thinks pushing through the first few meets has helped them do that.
“While there will always be challenges, the team has demonstrated some resilience to navigate to this point,” the coach said. “We were prepared for a unique season, and are thankful to be given the opportunity to come together as a team, as well as be able to compete.”
The senior co-captains say once the Bonackers are back at full strength, they will be back on track to defend their back-to-back League II champion titles. Regardless of wins and losses, the head coach said his swimmers are making the most of every moment back in the pool.
“They are embracing the things that show why high school sports are an important part of their lives — things like friendship, teamwork, challenges/adversities, commitment and dedication; all things that reflect life lessons,” Brierley said. “And even after a challenging week, they showed up for their 7 a.m. practice Saturday morning ready and willing to put in the work to get better.”