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Flushing Flyers win 16th straight YMCA swim title

It really wasn’t a surprise to anyone in attendance that the Flushing Flyers, the swim team representing the Flushing YMCA at the 2002 YMCA Swimming Championships held last weekend in Eisenhower State Park on Long Island, came away with first place. In fact, the Flyers have made a habit out of winning.

The team, coached by Richard Finkelstein, claimed its 16th consecutive state title, dominating the competition throughout the three-day event. Some 38 separate YMCAs from all over the state were represented at the meet and none could come close to Flushing’s dominance.

“The kids are dedicated,” said Finkelstein moments after the meet had ended. “We have a good program at the Y. The kids just enjoy swimming. We try to make it fun for everyone all the time.”

Finkelstein has been the head coach of the program during its impressive 16-year reign as the top YMCA swim team in the state. Prior to coming to Flushing, the Long Island resident worked at the Cross Island YMCA in Bellerose.

Finkelstein stressed that Flushing, though the dominant force at the meet, did not run over all the competition.

“It was pretty tight this year,” the coach said. “There were some age groups that were a lot closer than anticipated.”

In the end, however, Flushing dominated the team points category. The Flyers wracked up 2,978 points, nearly twice as many as the second place team from the co-host Huntington YMCA which finished with 1,520.50 points. Southern Saratoga was third with 1,224, the Saratoga Stingrays were fourth with 1.027.50 and the Cross Island YMCA was fifth with 947.

One of the standouts at the meet for the Flyers, Finkelstein said, was Greg Pfeifer, competing in the 13- and 14 -year-old boys’ division, who took home two gold medals as well as registering some major drops in his personal best times.

Also securing gold medals for Flushing on the final day of competition — the previous two days were preliminary competition — were One June Chang, who took first in the boys’ 9- and 10-year-old 50 freestyle, followed by teammate Justin Ng in second place. Flushing also had a one-two finish in the girls’ 11- and 12-year-old 100 freestyle with Gabi Guelly and April Lu grabbing the gold and silver, respectively.

Paul Payabyab took first in the 13- and 14-year-old boys’ 100 freestyle, Stefanie Gerber won the girls’ 15- to 18-year-old 100 freestyle, Dorota Sawicz won the 13- and 14-year-old 100 butterfly, Bianca Martinez captured the 11- and 12-year-old 50-yard breaststroke and Charles Kim won the 13- and 14-year-old 100 breaststroke.

Charles Lampasso, who coaches the 10 and under boys’ and girls’ teams, said he was pleased with the performance and spirit the younger members of the Flushing Y team showed at the meet, the first state championship for many of the team’s members.

“We all swam very well,” Lampasso said. “They all cheered for each other. It made for an exciting meet.”

Former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman was honored before action started on Day Two of the competition for her support of the Flushing YMCA over the years and more than 1,500 spectators attended a laser light show also on Saturday night.

Next up for those from the Flushing Y who qualified will be the YMCA Nationals, to be held in two weeks in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

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