WALLINGFORD — Wallingford swimming will be well represented this afternoon at the CIAC Class M championship meet at Wesleyan University.
Sheehan and Lyman Hall nabbed four No. 1 seeds at the trials on Saturday, which could set up for a successful afternoon for the two Wallingford schools.
Trojans senior Kyle Neri is the top seed in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles. His qualifying time of 21.77 in the 50 was also good for a school record. His qualifying time in the 100 was 47.64.
Neri has come close to state titles in the past, but the gold has eluded the William & Mary-bound swimmer until this point.
“Even though I am the top seed, there are plenty of good kids that could jump up,” Neri said Monday. “It’s going to be a great competition. This would be my first title if I won. It would be amazing to finally get it, especially in my senior year.”
LH coach Donna Neary is hopeful for a big day from Neri and the Trojans.
“We have room for improvement,” Neary said. “I know Kyle is determined to win. He looked great on Saturday and his ankle is feeling much better and we are keeping his fingers crossed. I would like to see him go out on top.”
Sheehan senior Carl Thurston is the No. 2 seed in the 100 with a time of 48.58. He is also seeded fourth in the 50 with a mark of 22.20.
“I have to try to push myself to the next level to go as fast as I possibly could go,” Thurston said.
Thurston said he has a lot of respect for Neri.
“He’s the best I’ve ever seen,” Thurston said. “He’s got the perfect swimmer’s body for it and he’s been swimming his whole life. It’s an honor to race right next to him.”
Neri said he has the same respect for the Sheehan sprinter.
Thurston also anchors the Titans record-breaking and top-seeded 400 free relay team, which shattered the school record by over two seconds on Saturday with a time of 3:21.26.
“They made sure that they got it. They were very close at SCCs, so we knew we had a chance coming into states,” Sheehan coach Keith Cargan said. “We have a good chance of winning this race (today), but being the top seed, everybody is going to be trying to get us. But I think we can get it. I think we can be state champs and that’s a very exciting thing.”
Freshman Linus Koepfer starts the relay, followed by sophomore Connor Robison. Junior Rob Hacku is the third leg, setting the stage for Thurston.
Hacku, who is ranked No. 3 in the 200 individual medley, said the group just clicks together.
“All year we were looking for a relay combination that would work,” Hacku said. “We put everyone on the spot and, luckily, Linus fit the role. He stepped up out of nowhere, and when we shattered the record it was a great feeling.”
Koepfer said he’s just enjoying the ride in his first year with the Titans.
“It’s interesting to see how they do it,” the freshman said. “I’ve learned the technique from them and how to manage the team from the two captains on the relay.”
The same quartet earned a No. 2 seed in the 200 free relay at 1:31.13.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t get the 200 freestyle school record too,” Cargan said.
Robison won the Class S state championship in the 500 free last year as a freshman. Now in Class M, he is the top seed in today’s meet with a qualifying time of 4:45.83.
“There is a lot more talent in Class M, so it’s going to be tougher and I think he’s a little nervous going into it,” Cargan said. “I think he could win the 500.”
Robison said he’s excited about getting a chance to win another title.
“I just really like racing,” Robison said. “I like to go into the pool with all of the other guys and see who comes out first.”
Lyman Hall’s top relay is the 200 freestyle, which also broke a school record on Saturday. Neri, senior Tyler Swanson, junior Carlo Arellano and sophomore Robbie Driscoll qualified as the No. 5 seed with a time of 1:32.37.
Lyman Hall junior Alex May is the No. 7 seed (5:02.11) in the 500 championship heat and has been improving every meet.
Both teams are traveling to Wesleyan on the same bus and the two schools are, in essence, united as one team. On Monday, they put in a light swim together at the Sheehan pool.
“We are all cheering for each other,” Neary said. “We are like one team. It could be a great day for Wallingford swimming.”