V845 Notebook: Music, redemption and a weekend to remember

“The music and everything? That was my idea.”

On Saturday, I spoke with Section 9 swimming and diving chairman Scott Warner about a fun way to build excitement during the section’s swimming championships. In writing this piece, I spoke with winning swimmers of the final heat of each race and asked them about the thinking behind their entrance songs.

“I think it adds something that pumps them up coming out of that room,” Warner said. “It’s a little nerve-wracking going in there. You’re sitting in there with your competition, staring them down…”

And when discussing what goes into the song choice, Warner simply said, “As long as it’s a clean version, it’s OK.”

A busy weekend

The highlights of the weekend were, predictably, Pine Bush diver Colin Lang, who swept Section 9 competition on Friday with a 534.75, and New Paltz swimmer Leo Kuyl, who won four events — two individual and two relays — on Saturday.

Then there was Monroe-Woodbury, which won not only the boys Section 9 Swimming and Diving Championships, but also the girls indoor track and field Section 9 championships.

But there were other stories that came out of the weekend’s action, highlighting athletes that may not have been on the teams that won, but still shined individually. Ken McMillan wrote about Marlboro shot putter Kaitlyn Conte and Goshen distance runner Nicolas Paneto.

At Friday’s diving finals, much of the attention was on Dan Harrington, the Valley Central junior whose redemption story of making it to the state meet after missing out the past two years was a celebratory achievement for all in attendance. His mother Karen, who calls Harrington “Mr. Calm”, said of last year’s failed dive at the Section 9 championships, “It’s a close family between the schools and it hurts. It’s hard.”

Harrington’s father, John, said it wasn’t just a victory for Dan and his family, but for everyone watching.

“It’s been such a long time coming,” John said, “and he’s tried so hard for so long and gotten so close and you can see the reaction from everybody. The lead-up to it was just, everybody here has been rooting for him for so long.”

John added, “He wasn’t always the best, but he was determined.”

And finally, Dan said of the sport’s importance to him, “I made so many friends doing it, and it’s just been a part of my life for so long.”

Unlike Harrington, Washingtonville’s Jackson Vinarub knew he’d qualified for the state meet before he competed at the Section 9 finals. Therefore, his coach Jim Frisbie said, “We talked before the meet about making this like the atmosphere that we would be facing at states.”

Frisbie added of Vinarub, “He’s young. He’s still learning in the sport. The competing part a lot of times is the hard part. When they’re training, they’re young, they’re pretty resilient. They’re strong kids. Sometimes the competition part gets a little tense for them. I push him hard in practice so that he can stand up in tough spots like these meets and he did a nice job.” Vinarub finished second behind Lang on Friday.

Finally, Middletown diver Jordan Washington placed fifth and was the highest scoring diver to miss the cut for the state meet. That doesn’t mean, as head coach Frank Woodward told me, that Washington’s outing Friday was a failure. Far from it.

“He is very athletic,” Woodward said, “so you want to try to use that ability to jump to his advantage. He had his best score by about 35 points and got fifth overall. That’s the best finish he’s had.”

Woodward said Washington has put in hundreds of hours training, increasing his score every year. “We’re proud of him. He’s a great kid and has really grown over his four years.”

Woodward concluded on Washington, “Best score, highest place ever, so we can’t complain.”

Best sports journalism this week

Wayne Drehs for ESPN meets a head football coach undeterred by having no arms or legs.

Leo Sepkowitz for Bleacher Report details how the NBA got its handles.

Allan Kreda for New York Times on the New York Islanders’ two homes.

Matthew Fairburn for The Athletic profiles Dan Morgan, a former NFL player making the most of a playing career cut short.

Jake Fischer for Sports Illustrated on how Blake Griffin remade himself into All-Star form.

C.J. Moore for The Athletic profiles Baylor head basketball coach Scott Drew.

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