MERIDEN — Now that we’ve got indoor track and wrestling in the All-Record-Journal books, we turn to the sports that lost their championships to the CIAC’s decision on March 10 — now so clearly prescient — to cancel the remainder of the winter postseason.
Boys swimming? Unlike hockey and basketball, it never even got out of the gate. The state qualifiers, which set the pecking order for the class championship meets, hadn’t even been held.
And that was a tough break for a team like the Meriden Co-op, which had a program-record eight swimmers meet the requisite qualifying times in Class LL.
It was a tough break for all five area teams, quite frankly. Each would have been represented at the class meets, many in the championship “A” heats, with a trip to the State Open not out of reach.
School records that were ripe to fall — swimming builds to the state meets, where the best times are almost always logged — will remain intact.
No doubt, it was a year of woulda, coulda, shoulda.
So how did we arrive at the 2019-20 All-Record-Journal Boys Swimming & Diving Team? Regular season performance, for starters.
And then there were the conference meets. Both the Southern Connecticut and Central Connecticut conferences had staged their championships before March 10, with a fair number of area athletes winning titles.
The more we looked at the times, the more it became clear that our initial “Watch List” of All-RJ candidates would have probably remained intact through the class meets and State Open.
We’re lighter than usual on the stats. We are as confident as ever on the names.Diving right in
Last year’s All-RJ team featured three divers and so, too, does the 2019-20 edition.
The lone returnee is Southington senior Emerson “E.J.” Suski. With a 257.95, Suski scored this season’s best six-dive mark among teams in the R-J coverage area. He went on to place third in the CCC West Championships.
Our two other All-RJ divers reside in the SCC, where they finished 2-3 in the conference finals. Both are juniors: Noah Duncan of Cheshire and Elyse Boothroyd of the Lyman Hall/Coginchaug Co-op.
Duncan was second in the SCC with an 11-dive total of 377.65. His best six-dive mark this season was a 246.75.
Boothroyd’s 347.00 placed her third in the SCC. During the regular season, she broke her own Coginchaug six-dive record with a 241.00 rung up in the Wallingford rivalry meet at Sheehan.
Boothroyd also holds Coginchaug’s 11-dive standard with the 383.45 she compiled placing third in last year’s SCC Championships. She and Duncan both have a year to go. Stay tuned.Conference kings
Between the SCC and CCC meets, area swimmers collected nine golds — seven individual and two relays.
Southington reaped the biggest harvest, following up a 5-0 regular season in the CCC West (10-1 overall) with a first-place showing at the divisional finals on March 4 at Cornerstone Aquatics in West Hartford.
Tyler Heidgerd was the leading man for the Blue Knights. The senior defended his divisional title in the 100 backstroke in 55.30 seconds and claimed a new one in the 200 freestyle at 1:50.63. He was also part of the first-place 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays.
Joining Heidgerd on both of those relays were two other individual CCC West champions, senior Derek Melanson and sophomore Landon Colby. Melanson won the 200 IM in 2:04.19. Colby collected the 100 butterfly in 54.74.
In combination with Heidgerd and senior Athlete of Distinction Jon Cocchiola, Melanson and Colby helped set a CCC West championship meet record in the 200 medley. The time: 1:40.93.
On the 400 freestyle, it was Heidgerd, Melanson and Colby joining forces with another senior Athlete of Distinction, Kyle Buchanan. Their winning time was 3:23.64.
That 400 freestyle victory capped the CCC West team championship for Southington. It was also a fitting finish for Melanson, who won 20 races during the dual-meet season and is going on to swim at Southern Connecticut State.
There was one more champion for the Blue Knights at that CCC West meet, and he’ll be one of Southington’s leading lights again next year. It’s junior Jackson Malsheske. With a time of 5:03.97, Malsheske was the best in the West in the 500 freestyle.
As for championships in the SCC, those were fewer in number for area athletes, yet harder to attain. Unlike the CCC, which holds separate championship swim meets for its four divisions, the SCC combines its two divisions into one finale.
And this year, on the night of March 4 at SCSU, two returning All-RJ swimmers defended their SCC crowns. Sheehan junior Joey Zellner did it in the 100 freestyle. Cheshire senior Sam Hanke followed in the 100 backstroke.
Zellner touched in 48.82 to edge North Haven’s Hethon Foster by 3/100ths of a second. It was the closest race of the night.
As for Hanke, he got to the wall in 51.56 in the backstroke, better than a full second ahead of the rest of the field. He also earned All-Conference designation with second-place finishes in the individual 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relay.
Hanke graduates as Cheshire’s record-holder in the 100 backstroke with the 51.33 he swam in his second-place showing at last year’s State Open.
Hanke, among all area swimmers, was the best bet to win a state championship in 2020. He’ll continue his career at the University of South Carolina.Elder statesman
The 2019-20 All-Record-Journal boys swim team is a remarkably young bunch. There are only five seniors.
One has been a four-year standout at Sheehan: Adam DiDomenico.
A cornerstone of Sheehan’s back-to-back SCC Division II championship teams of 2018 and 2019, DiDomenico was the area’s top freestyle sprinter in 2020. He made All-SCC with in the 50 free with a third-place showing in the conference finals. DiDomenico touched in 22.67 in a race that saw the top six finish within one second of another.Junior achievement
With Kevin Reeder returning to the coaching helm in Cheshire this winter, the Rams went 10-3 overall and 4-2 in SCC Division I.
They can claim area bragging rights. The Rams handed Southington its lone loss, 98-85, in a non-conference dual at Cheshire Community Pool on Jan. 3.
A driving force for Cheshire was its junior class. Along with diver Noah Duncan, swimmers Justin Finkel and Harrison Hua truly had breakout seasons.
At the SCC Championships, Finkel was second in the 500 freestyle in 4:48.78 and third in the butterfly in 53.35. Those times were the area’s best in both events.
Hua also had an area-best time. It came in the 200 IM when he placed third in the SCC in 1:59.83.
Finkel and Hua also combined with Sam Hanke at the SCC meet on Cheshire’s second-place 400 freestyle and third-place 200 free relays.Very young guns
A number of sophomores and freshmen broke onto the scene this winter. Two were named All-RJ. Three are Athletes of Distinction.
The All-RJ picks were Maloney sophomore Sam Hurlburt, a school record-breaker with the Meriden Co-op, and Lyman Hall freshman Kendrick Lagamao, the de facto area Rookie of the Year with the LH/Coginchaug Co-op.
Hurlburt took down a 20-year-old Maloney record in the 100 breaststroke when he clocked in at 1:03.98 at the CCC South Championships at Platt. That earned Hurlburt a second-place finish in the division.
Lagamao, who happens to be a Meriden resident, hit the lanes for LH and delivered 10 individual wins in five different events. He also was part of eight first-place relays.
Lagamao’s best events were the 200 IM and 100 butterfly. He won four times in the medley and three times in the fly. His best time in the latter, 59.19, came at the SCC Championships.
Another freshman who put together a tremendous rookie year was Athlete of Distinction Mehdi Moumen of Platt. The Meriden Co-op scored a program-high eight wins in the dual-meet season and Moumen was Meriden’s man in the freestyle sprints. His best times were 24.10 in the 50 free and 52.76 in the 100.
And then there is Cheshire, where class tides show no signs of ebbing. Behind that stacked junior class is a sophomore group led by Athletes of Distinction Edward Chen and Vincent Zhu.
Chen and Zhu led the Rams in the breaststroke. Chen was fourth in the SCC in 1:00.80. Zhu was fifth in 1:01.57.
How would all these times have transfered to the state meet? We won’t know.
At least not for now. For most of this year’s All-Record-Journal Boys Swimming & Diving Team and Swimers of Distinction, there is always next year.