MERIDEN — Pizza was in order.
If the football guys were getting pizza for their All-Record-Journal photo shoot, the girls swimmers were getting pizza, too.
Along with football, girls swimming was the most accomplished sport in the R-J coverage area for the 2019 fall season.
In both sports, school records fell, conference crowns were claimed and — feat of feats — state championships were won.
Before Sheehan won the Class S football title, the Cheshire girls brought home the Class LL and the State Open swimming banners.
Now, it was the third state class title in as many years for the Rams, who had moved up from Class L. But this one was epochal. To win Class LL, the Rams had to overthrow a dynasty. Greenwich had won Class LL for nine years running.
To complete the coup, Cheshire dethroned Greenwich as State Open champ.
Prepare the feast! Pizza all around!
Plus, a lot of the girls were coming from club swim practice the night of the All-RJ shoot. Do you realize how many calories need to be replenished after a swim practice?
Next time, girls, we’ll provide the ice cream, too.State the case
The 2019 All-RJ Girls Swimming Team is both elite and all-encompassing.
Our All-RJ picks number just 10. Most are All-State, which in swimming is defined by a top-eight finish at the State Open.
But there was another pool of about 10 girls who, either individually or as part of relays, were indispensible to the success of their teams. Many made it to the State Open. You can’t dismiss that. Those girls are All-RJ Honorable Mention.
So, where to start?
At the top. The Cheshire tsunami was headed by two girls who won two freestyle events apiece in Class LL and again at the State Open: Sophie Murphy and Julia Stevens.
Murphy, a junior, swept the sprints. Stevens, a senior, dominated in distance.
Murphy was class and State Open champion in the 50 and 100 freestyles for a second straight year. She steadily trimmed her times to the 23.68 and 51.08 she swam at the Open.
Stevens, who is going on to swim at Lehigh University, won the 200 and 500 freestyles in Class LL and repeated the feat at the Open. Her best times were the 1:51.97 that won the 200 at the Open and the 4:58.14 that won the 500 in Class LL.
Murphy and Stevens also combined on the 400 freestyle relay that took first place in Class LL.
They were two of four individual All-State swimmers who led Cheshire to its first State Open team title since 2004. (Yes, go figure: Cheshire has won 42 total state championships, yet this season’s State Open was the first in 15 years.)
The two other individual Cheshire All-Staters? Jillian Stevens and Nora Bergstrom.
Jillian Stevens is the twin sister of Julia Stevens. They are not identical. They are not the same height. They do not care for the way the other drives a car.
They share a sense of humor, though, and in the pool it’s pure harmony. The Stevens sisters were together on the 200 medley relay that was second in Class LL and fifth at the Open.
Jillian Stevens earned her individual All-State laurels in the 100 backstroke. She was third in Class LL in 57.58 and fourth at the Open in 57.21.
Jillians Stevens will be swimming next year at Bryant University. Nora Bergstrom, meanwhile, will be back in Cheshire for her senior year as the heir apparent to Julia Stevens.
Bergstrom was All-State in both distance freestyles. She was third in both the 200 and 500 in Class LL. At the Open, she lowered her times in each race while placing fourth in the 200 (1:53.99) and third in the 500 (5:02.55).
Bergstrom was also on the Class LL champion and State Open runner-up 400 free relay. She joined Murphy on the 200 free relay that was second in Class LL and third at the Open.
Another member of that 200 free relay as well as the 200 medley was team captain Sarah Chen. She was part of a senior class that extended Cheshire’s dual-meet win streak to 67 and its string of SCC conference championships to eight.
Sarah Chen is All-RJ. These Rams are Honorable Mention:
■Avery Potyrala, fr.: Won SCC titles with the 200 and 400 free relays and a Class LL crown with the 400. Individually, Potyrala qualified for her first Open in the 200 free.■Emma Glover, jr.: Team leader in the breaststroke, Glover was second in the SCC, fourth in Class LL and advanced to the State Open. She also swam on the medley relay that placed fifth at the Open.■Natalie DeMatteo, jr.: The only area diver to reach the State Open. DeMatteo was sixth in Class LL (369.10) and 18th at the Open (395.70).■Julianna Tyler, fr. & Gabby Tejeda, jr.: Cheshire’s leading IM’ers. Tyler and Tejeda went 5-6 in Class LL and 12-13 at the Open. Tyler also made the Open in the butterfly.Young guns
Lyman Hall’s pipeline of young stars continued this season with freshman Elise Richardson following on the heels of last year’s top rookie, Caroline Krawec.
Krawec followed up her freshman debut by earning All-State in the breaststroke and breaking a school record in the 100 backstroke.
The sophomore secured All-State by placing eighth in the breaststroke at the State Open after a second-place showing in the Class L meet. The backstroke record — 1:00.25 — came at the SCC meet, where Krawec placed fifth.
Krawec also did well in the IM. She was second in the SCC and fifth in Class L.
Richardson, meanwhile, lit up the pool with a bubbly personality and a wicked freestyle stroke. The rookie went to the State Open in both sprints after placing fourth in Class L in the 100 (53.61) and sixth in Class L in the 50 (24.83).
That 24.83 was a school record. Richardson lowered it four days later at the Open with a 24.80.
Richardson and Krawec also went to the Open as part of Lyman Hall’s medley relay. Joining them at Yale were sophomores Elena Bielesz and Zoe Gallo, both Honorable Mentions.With honor
While on the topic of Wallingford Honorable Mentions, there were two from Sheehan: Leila Sofiane and Katie Webb.
Both sophomores qualified for championship heats at the Class S meet individually and as part of the 200 and 400 free relays. Sofiane made it in the 500 free, Webb in the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM.
In Meriden, the city co-op’s top swimmer was also a sophomore: Avery Benigni of Maloney.
Benigni was the only Meriden swimmer to individually qualify for the Class L meet. She went in the 50 free and 100 butterfly, the two events she won at the CCC South conference championship meet.
Benigni also anchored Meriden’s 200 free and 400 free relays. Both qualified for the Class L meet.Good Knights
Southington’s season was highlight by team victory at the CCC West conference championship meet, a 10th-place showing in Class LL and a handful of school records.
One had stood since 1982. It was in the 500 freestyle. Junior Andie Nadeau rewrote it with a first-place time of 5:18.88 at the CCC West championship.
At the same meet, Nadeau broke her own school record in the winning the 200 free in 1:58.40. Nadeau lowered it yet again with a 1:57.08 at the Class LL meet.
For these records, and for swimming on the 200 and 400 freestyle relays that both won CCC West titles and advanced through Class LL to the State Open, Nadeau returns to the All-RJ team for a second straight year.
So does fellow junior Meghan Hammarlund. A standout since she was a freshman, Hammarlund punctuated her junior campaign with two program records and All-State recognition.
The records were her own and they were re-set at the State Open: 58:19 in the 100 butterfly and 58.90 in the 100 backstroke.
Hammarlund was the CCC West champ in the backstroke. She was All-State in the butterfly.
Hammarlund also swam on the 200 medley and 400 freestyle relay teams that won CCC West titles and ultimately advanced to State Open.
That 400 free relay swam a school-record 3:41.41 at the Open. One of its members was Gianna Perugini.
A senior who didn’t start swimming competitively until she was a sophomore, Perugini simply blossomed this fall. She was the 50 and 100 freestyle sprint champ in the CCC West and she was on the conference 200 and 400 champion freestyle relay teams that went on to the State Open.
If anyone in the R-J coverage area warrants a Most Improved Swimmer award for the span of a career, it’s Gianna Perugini.
Southington also had four Honorable Mentions:
■Sarah Meade, sr.: The team’s toughest swimmer and also its scholar-athlete, Meade battled through a shoulder injury to reach the State Open with the 200 medley and 200 free relays.■Jenna Famiglietti & Maddie Symecko: The two juniors swam with Meade and Hammarlund on the CCC West champion medley relay. Individually, Famiglietti was second in the breaststroke in the CCC West and Symecko was second in the backstroke.■Emma Jekubovich, fr.: It seemed all of our girls swim teams had quality freshmen this year, and Emma Jekubovich was the top newcomer for Southington. Jekubovich was on both freestyle relays, which means she was part of two conference championships and a school record at the Open. Consider it the start of the next wave.