CHESHIRE — All of the pieces seem in place for the Cheshire girls swimming and diving team. Chock full of talent and depth, the Rams have steamrolled through the regular season and the SCC championship meet, and now have the Class L championship in their sights.
Cheshire will be seeking its 27th state crown, but only its first since 2009, in the Class L title meet at Wesleyan University on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Cheshire coach Dan Mascolo said his expectations were exceeded with the performance his girls put in on Saturday at trials. The final heats are rife with Rams. They have at least one swimmer (or relay team) in every event.
The Rams have three swimmers in the 100 breaststroke and 500 freestyle finals. Half of the eight-girl championship heat in the 200 IM hails from Cheshire.
“When we started talking at the beginning of season, the goal was for everyone to swim their fastest at this meet,” Mascolo said. “If everyone swims their lifetime bests, I think we should be very happy with the outcome. Darien and New Canaan are also in a very strong position as well and will come to race.”
The four state class meets will play out over the next two days at Wesleyan and Southern Connecticut State University. Tonight, Southington is at Wesleyan for Class LL and Sheehan is at SCSU for Class S. On Wednesday, while Cheshire is trying to unseat defending champ Darien at Wesleyan in Class L, Lyman Hall will be at SCSU for Class M.
The Rams far and away have the most qualifiers for championship heats. In fact, they hold seven of the No. 1 seeds in Class L. Senior Liz Boyer and freshmen Ali Tyler and Sophie Murphy have two apiece.
Boyer is the No. 1 seed in the 100 breaststroke and the 200 IM. She checks in with qualifying times of 1:06.32 in the breaststroke and 2:06.69 in the IM.
“This meet, for Liz and the seniors, is a culmination of four years,” Mascolo said. “It’s been great to watch this team grow and improve over the last four years. We hope that Wednesday is the crowning achievement for those four years.
“We have a couple of goals that Liz has set for herself and, if we can follow through, we will be very happy with this season,” Mascolo added.
Tyler is the No. 1 seed in the 200 freestyle and the 100 backstroke. She trimmed more than six seconds off her previous season-best on Saturday with a 1:53.53 in the 200. She swam a 58.87 in the backstroke.
“Ali is a tremendous big-meet swimmer,” Mascolo said. “She works hard during the season, but when the lights are shining the brightest, she will show up. I’ve seen what she can do at a championship meet. We haven’t had a meet of that caliber in her high school career to show everyone what I already know what she’s capable of doing.”
Murphy is the top seed in the 50 and 100 freestyles. She qualified with a 24.04 in the 50 and a 52.90 in the 100.
“Sophie has done a great job only being a freshman,” Mascolo said. “You have to swim a perfect race to win because they are such short races, but she’s swam strong all year and her performances on Saturday fills me with a lot of confidence.”
Another underclassman ready for the postseason spotlight is Julia Stevens. The sophomore is the No. 1 seed in the 500 free (5:02.80) and No. 2 in the 200 free (1:53.69) behind only Tyler.
“She had two great races; both lifetime bests,” Mascolo said. “Her 500 got her sixth all-time at Cheshire and her 200 is ninth all-time for Cheshire. That’s keeping her in a good place for Wednesday.”
Other Cheshire swimmers qualifying for final heats on Wednesday include Esther Han (6th in both 200 and 500 free), Samantha Grenon (3rd IM, 5th 100 free), Jillian Stevens (5th backstroke, 7th IM), Gabriella Tejeda (7th butterfly, 8th IM), Grace Pettit (8th, 500 free), Elli Haskes (3rd breaststroke) and Emma Glover (8th breaststroke).
The Rams are already off to a strong start. In the Class L diving competition held Thursday, Sienna Breton placed second with 399.70 points. Stephanie Silin was ninth (336.10).
Darien has won the last six Class L titles. Cheshire was the runner-up last year.
“We had a good shot at them last year,” Mascolo said. “We closed the gap significantly. We are hoping to be strong enough this year to make a run at them.
“To win, it takes a combination of depth and top line quality. You need to have both to win this meet. The magic number is around 800 points. To do that, you need to get everyone in finals. We did a great job racing against the competition (at trials) and on Wednesday we will be racing against the clock.”
Southington will be led at Wesleyan by freestyle sprinter Olivia Fournier. The senior broke her own school record in swimming a 24.74 in Saturday’s qualifying meet. That time earned Fournier the No. 5 seed.
Fournier is also the anchor on Southington’s 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays. Both are seeded No. 8.
Junior Julie Duszak is in the championship heat of the 100 breaststroke as the No. 7 seed.
In Class M, Lyman Hall will be represented by its Big Four of Sarah Beverage, Nicole Cislo, Kristie Driscoll and Faith Gambardella. Each has qualified for the championship heat in an individual race. They will also swim in the 200 medley relay (No. 4 seed) and 200 free relay (No. 5).
Gambardella is No. 4 in the 100 backstroke and No. 5 in the 500 freestyle. Beverage (50 free) and Cislo (breaststroke) are No. 6 seeds. Driscoll is the No. 7 in the backstroke.
Neither Sheehan nor the Meriden co-op had swimmers qualify for championship races.