Not three, not five, not ten, not even twenty; how about 30 consecutive state swimming championships.
Yes, you read that right: 30.
Richard Finkelstein is the man behind the massive winning streak, having been on hand for each of the Flyers’ championships over the last 30 seasons.
“It has been very rewarding and thrilling to have enjoyed such unusual success” he said proudly. “Being on top for 30 years is a combination of many things. The YMCA has been blessed with dedicated swimmers, an excellent assistant coaching staff, great support from the YMCA, a little bit of luck and a terrific parents organization.”
Coach Finkelstein also credits his assistant coaches with the Flyers’ success over the years, four of which handle their own age groups.
The 8U kids are coached by Yllka Ibishaj; Shirley Falconi leads the way for the nine and ten year-olds; Priscilla Arana coaches the 11 and 12 year olds, Heather Monterosso coaches the development team; and Sally Lim assists coach Finkelstein with the 13-and-over unit.
The teams’ swimmers come from a variety of places, including high school teams, other club teams, CYO programs and the Flushing YMCA classes.
The YMCA’s boys’ team was started in 1946, and a girl’s team was added in 1959. Finkelstein was an assistant coach for the programs first title in 1987, the first of 30 consecutive state titles, before he earned the head coaching position the following season.
“When I started at Flushing there were just a handful of teams in the five boroughs and three of them were YMCA’s,” Finkelstein said. “Today there are 32 teams in the five boroughs.
“We accept swimmers of all abilities,” he added. “Our goal is to help everyone reach their fullest potential at their own pace. We teach children how to manage their time, to set goals and stress that school comes first.
We are a home away from home,” he continued. “The older swimmers come here after school and do their homework, have study time and hang out with their friends. We teach and stress the four core YMCA values of caring, honest, respect and responsibility.”
Over the course of the 30 championship seasons, success has been spread out between the varieties of age groups.
The 8U girls have finished first on six occasions. The 9-10 girls have won nine times. The 11 and 12-year-old girls have taken first 12 times, the 13 and 14-year-old girls have followed with 16 first place finishes, and the 15 to 19-year-old girls have finished first 16 times.
On the boys’ side of things, the 8U group has tallied six first-place finishes. The 9-10 boys follow suit with 11 firsts, while the 11-12 level boys have racked up 17. The 13 and 14-year-old boys have accumulated 24 first place finishes, while the 15 to 19-year-old high school group has added on 24 of their own, which includes taking first in each of the last nine years.
So to simplify this, the girls have recorded 59 first place finishes, while the boys have posted 82, which adds up 141 titles between the two.
All squads have also finished second and third on countless occasions, which adds to the consistency of their continued greatness.
Translation: they’re really, really good.
Swimmers come from all over the city and beyond to compete on behalf of the Flyers, including a number of Division-I schools and athletes that have gone on to successful professions outside of the pool.
“We have had graduates at Harvard, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, West Point, The Naval Academy, Notre Dame, NYU, Auburn, Kenyon, Ohio, Cooper Union, and many New York State universities just to name a few,” coach Finkelstein said. “Our alumni include doctors, lawyers, nurses and, most recently, our first principal.”
The Flyers frequently compete in the metropolitan area, but do travel by plane to compete at other venues.
“The Y State Championships rotates around, and next year it will be in Ithaca,” coach said. “Short Course Y Nationals was in Greensboro, North Carolina, and Long Course Y Nationals in last week of July will be in Indianapolis.”
Follow Bryan Fonseca on Twitter at @BryanFonsecaNY.
If you’re interested in joining this winning tradition, tryouts will be held on Sunday, May 1, at 8 a.m., and on May 2 or 3 at 5 p.m. The Flushing Y is located at 138-46 Northern Boulevard.