CHESHIRE — Rookie head coach Megan McGorry is getting her first taste of what it’s like overseeing the Cheshire boys swimming and diving team in the Rams’ proud swimming community.
The energetic new coach has the Cheshire boys off to a 4-0 start and has been impressed with the atmosphere that Cheshire offers its swimmers.
“It’s a different culture here, coaching in a town where swimming is a priority,” McGorry said. “I grew up in West Haven, where ice hockey and football were the priority. I know a lot of sports are important here, but swimming is one of them and that is really nice. I’ve just had a really warm welcome from everyone here.”
Under McGorry’s nascent watch, the Rams have overwhelmed foes with their talent and depth. The latest display was a 110-62 victory over Hamden (0-3) at the Cheshire Community Pool on Tuesday night.
Cheshire swam the fastest time in each event and also won diving.
Freshman Shane Wynne and junior Sam Hanke were double-winners and will be two of Cheshire’s best title hopes come the postseason. Wynne was best in the 50-yard freestyle (24.15) and 100 backstroke (58.80). Hanke was tops in the 200 free (1:49.84) and 500 free (4:59.15).
“I always put Shane in different events because he can swim anything,” McGorry said. “He had to do the 100 back right after the relay and still did really strong.”
Wynne’s versatility and endurance were tested last Thursday in a win over North Haven. The freshman competed in the first three events of the night.
“Shane came up to me and asked if he could do ‘The Challenge,’” McGorry said. “He said, ‘I want to do the first three events in a row because I think it would be a good workout.’ That speaks to his work ethic and his guts.
“He has beyond guts,” McGorry added. “He’s up for any challenge and wants to prove everyone wrong.”
Wynne responded by winning all three events. He swam the third leg of the victorious 200 medley relay, then stayed in the pool to touch the wall first in the 200 freestyle and 200 IM.
Hanke’s versatility has also been on display. He tried the 500 free for the first time Tuesday and came away with the victory.
“He’s another one I can put in any event,” McGorry said. “He’s strong and works really hard and is a good leader.”
The Cheshire leadership starts with senior captains Joseph Cannata, Richmond Le and Peter Levens.
Cannata, who is heading to Fairfield University, made his season debut on Tuesday night. After missing the first three meets of the season with a concussion, Cannata returned to action in victorious fashion by winning the 100 freestyle (51.66) and swimming legs on two first-place relays.
“Luckily, I didn’t miss any big championship meets,” Cannata said. “It was tough to be at the meets and not be able to swim. I’m back to normal, but missing two weeks in swimming is different. It’s a very cardio-based sport, and when you are out of the pool for two weeks it’s hard to come back. But I will get there.”
So the older kids have been winning and the younger kids have been winning. The mesh between the two has been another key element to the team’s early success.
“I know Cheshire has a really strong program and we had a great team coming back, but I think what has really surprised me is the team’s attitude,” McGorry said. “The upperclassmen have really supported the underclassmen.”
Cheshire has some young standouts in addition to Wynne, including sophomore Justin Finkel, freshman Vincent Zhu and freshman Wesley Johnson. Sophomore Noah Duncan won diving against Hamden on Tuesday with 199.2 points and sophomore Harrison Hua collected a win in the 200 IM (2:06.80).
Levens said the strong crop of underclassmen has made the Rams that much strong this year.
“I think we can do a lot of damage against a lot of teams we’ve had trouble with in the past,” Levens said. “We have a lot of depth and a lot of good guys. If everyone swims their best at every meet, I think we will have some pretty good outcomes. We always come in with high expectations and we feel we can do a lot of good.”
McGorry said she’s benefiting from the elite club team in town, the Cheshire Sea Dogs.
“These swimmers have had a lot of years of training and these kids you see winning events, those are the kids that are leading the lanes and pushing everyone else to get better,” McGorry said. “I think the success comes from hard work. It’s not about teaching with these kids. It’s about refining and building off of what they already know.”
Cheshire has 42 athletes on the roster this season.
“We have more swimmers than we’ve had in the last couple of years,” Cannata said. “The reason for that is in my freshman year, our assistant coach Kim Christensen said she started recruiting kids in the school that don’t necessarily swim, but that’s really paying off now. That started in my freshman year and those athletes are all now competing at a very high level.”
Le, who won the breaststroke on Tuesday, added that the team feeds off of McGorry’s energy.
“We are excited to have Coach Megan with us,” Le said. “Every day I come in and she gives us a really hard set, but you can’t get mad at her because she is always smiling and she wants everyone to do their very best.”
Also on Tuesday, junior Andrew Lou collected a victory in the 100 butterfly (56.38).
In addition to the captains, other seniors on the roster are Albert Kwon, Alexander Orcutt, Ankit Sahasrabudhe and Yasin Tarabar.
There have been plenty of reasons for Cheshire swimmers and divers to smile in the early going of 2019. With the level of talent on deck, there should be plenty more of that in the future.
“We are doing intense, intense hard workouts and there have been a lot of best times,” McGorry said. “That just shows when we taper at the end of the season, we will reach beyond our goals. To get best times while we are training really hard is a good sign.”