By JIM SCHILTZ
CLIFTON PARK — Niskayuna is back on top after taking another make-or-break, meet-ending 400-yard freestyle relay.
Clare Stansbury, Anna Vitolins, Zeynep Balto and Maggie Wyngowski combined to win the relay as the Silver Warriors overtook host Shenendehowa on Nov. 8 and claimed the Section II Division 1 swimming and diving team championship.
“We knew the situation. We do the points,” said Niskayuna coach Steve Hall, whose team trailed, 412.5-411.5, entering the 400 free relay. “The girls knew what they had to do, and they pushed it.”
The Niskayuna foursome swam a 3:33.82 to pick up 40 points and give their team 451.5.
Shenendehowa’s Emma Rupert, Kristen Cregin, Julia Samson and Jennifer Lucius closed in 3:34.68, getting 34 points for second, and leaving their team with 446.5.
“They beat our school record by three seconds,” said Shenendehowa coach Chuck Dunham. “They went down swinging.”
Shenendehowa piled up 49 points in the 100 breast, and Niskayuna scored 24 in a lead-up to the meet’s final race.
“I think it’s unfair to put it all on those four girls,” said Dunham. “We win as a team. We lose as a team.”
Niskayuna rallied to win the 2010 section team title, 399-398, when it outswam Shenendehowa in the 400 free relay. Niskayuna garnered another team crown in 2012, while Shenendehowa was tops in 2011 and last year.
The last two dual meets between Niskayuna and Shenendehowa were also decided with the 400 free relay, and those meets ultimately decided the Suburban Council champion.
Shenendehowa prevailed in the relay this season, and Niskayuna won it last year. “It comes down to whoever is better on that given day,” said Hall.
Balto won the 200 free (1:54.79) and the 500 free (5:04.56) to go with her key relay leg, and Niskayuna’s Kamryn Paige won the 100 butterfly (59.04).
“We have a really young team,” said Hall, who has only five seniors, including Balto, on his roster of 31. “They just wanted to do it.”
Samson helped Shenendehowa win the meet-starting 200 medley relay (1:47.45), and placed first in the 200 individual medley (2:03.29) and 100 back (55.69), just missing Section II records in the latter events while earning All-America consideration.