In a sport like swimming, the difference between success and failure is often measured by hundreths of a second. East Hampton junior Marina Preiss knows all about it, especially because her signature events—the 50 and 100-meter freestyle races—are the shortest ones contested in the pool, making the margin for error beyond slim. Going into the Section XI (Suffolk County) state qualifier meet at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood on Saturday, Preiss knew she had only one more chance to meet the state qualifying standard times in those events to earn a spot in the state meet. It was a season-long goal, but one that had eluded her throughout the year, as she came up narrowly short on many occasions despite proving she was one of the top sprinters in the county.
On Saturday, she not only made the cut, but shattered it, swimming under the qualifying time by what are considered wide margins in both races. Preiss will now make her third appearance in four years at the state meet, which will take place at Ithaca College in upstate New York on November 16-17.
Preiss won both events at the county meet on Saturday, finishing the 50 free in 24.51 seconds, beating the state qualifying time of 24.84 seconds. She also won the 100 free in 52.49 seconds, beating the state standard time of 54.36 seconds. East Hampton head coach John McGeehan said that Preiss’s time in the 100 was her personal best but he wasn’t entirely sure if her time in the 50 was also a personal best.
McGeehan said that winning the 50 and getting under the qualifying standard in that race helped set up Preiss nicely for her win the 100.
“Once she hit that time in the 50, she knew she was already on the bus [to states],” McGeehan said. “It just takes a lot of the pressure off in the 100.”
Preiss is seeded fifth for the state meet in the 100 and 12th in the 50. She’ll try to improve upon her 12th place finish in both events at states last year.
McGeehan said he was extremely pleased with her performance on Saturday.
“I said to her afterward, isn’t it amazing that all season long we’ve been playing around with tenths and hundredths of a second, and look what happens,” he said, referring to her relatively wide margin of beating the qualifying time in both events. McGeehan explained that swimming against strong competition that is present in the county meet, as opposed to a regular league meet, is more conducive to a fast time, but also said that Preiss is peaking at the right time, something he expected based on the way both he and assistant coach Meg Preiss, Marina’s mother, set up the training regimen.
Preiss’s performance was the highlight of what was an overall outstanding effort for the entire East Hampton team, which finished 11th out of the 25 teams who sent swimmers to counties.
In the 200-yard freestyle, Laura Gundersen had her best time ever, finishing in 2:09.61. Although she did not finish in the top 20, it was a good performance for Gundersen, especially considering that she nearly did not compete at the meet. Because the league meets were all cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy, several swimmers missed out on what would have been one final chance to meet the county qualifying standard times and earn a spot in the county meet. But Section XI made a special exception for several swimmers who were very close to meeting qualifying standard times in certain events, which allowed Gundersen to compete in the 200. McGeehan said she justified her presence at the meet with the strong finish, which was under the original county qualifying time. Under the same exemption, Morgan German (100-yard butterfly), Marikate Ryan (100 backstroke), Lindsey Stevens (100 backstroke) all were able to swim in those individual events, and they all finished under the county qualifying times.
German finished the butterfly in 1:04.80 and was 16th overall; Stevens finished in 1:06.87 in the backstroke; and Ryan finished in 1:07.85 in the backstroke.
“So it was legit,” McGeehan said of their presence at the meet. “It was great what [Section XI] did, and it showed that the girls very well may have met those times in the league meet. I’m glad they had the opportunity.”
Lydia Florio, who had already qualified in the 100 yard breaststroke, finished 18th in 1:17.20, and Gundersen, who had already qualified in the 500 freestyle, finished 16th in 5:48.63.
East Hampton also had three relay teams compete at the meet. The medley relay team of Stevens, German, Florio and Preiss was sixth in 1:58.38, while the 200 yard freestyle relay team of German, Florio, Shannon Ryan and Preiss was ninth in 1:48.61. The 400 free relay team of Gundersen, Shannon Ryan, Marikate Ryan and German was also ninth in 4:05.88.