GIRLS SWIMMING 2020: Virtual or live, it is time to kick and glide

GIRLS SWIMMING 2020: Virtual or live, it is time to kick and glide



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MERIDEN — We’re dating ourselves, but we’ll go there. This year’s girls swim season looms like an old advertisement for cassette tapes.

Is it live or is it Memorex?

In the parlance of 2020: Is it live or is it virtual?

More times than not, meets will be virtual as scholastic swimming returns this fall.

The format might vary. “You swim at your pool, I’ll swim at mine, and we’ll compare times,” is one.

“You swim at my place, then go home; I’ll come in, swim, and we’ll compare times,” is another.

While chlorinated water is theoretically the safest arena in which athletes from different schools can co-mingle, the CIAC is recommending virtual meets during the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s not just for health reasons, but for logistical ones. Some teams, like the 39-strong Cheshire Rams, are quite large and can make for a crowded pool deck.

Also, not every team swims on campus. For teams that use a college, town or private pool for home meets, traditional facilities aren’t necessarily available.

Example: Southington. While the Blue Knights can still practice in the cozy confines of the Southington YMCA, the Y adheres to Connecticut’s 25-person indoor gathering rule, so hosting home meets is out.

In Wallingford, where Sheehan and Lyman Hall share the Sheehan pool, which has a small deck, all meets will be virtual, including the three in which they go head to head. This is by decree of the fall sports plan Wallingford specifically drew up for its schools.

In Meriden, the girls co-op team swims at Maloney. There’s no limit on numbers there, said coach Ed Heath said, save for 25 in the grandstand, which looms above the pool deck. To stay under 25, only one parent per Meriden swimmer can attend meets this year.

Heath is hoping to schedule some live home meets. For now, he opens the season with three in-person meets on the road.

“I’m not sure how long we’re going to last. I’m surprised we’ve lasted this long, to tell you the truth, but we’ll see,” Heath said, referencing this week’s rise in Connecticut COVID-19 numbers. “My goal is to survive and have an in-person meet. I’ve had 21 practices so far. Let’s give the girls something at this point.”

In Cheshire, home to the reigning State Open and Class LL champions, eight meets are on the docket, four virtual, four in-person.

The Rams swim home meets at the Cheshire Community Pool, a spacious, Olympic-sized facility. Yet Cheshire has that large team roster, as do some of Cheshire’s opponents.

“We can run a virtual thing ourselves with no problem, but when another team comes in, it complicates things,” explained Rams coach Dan Modzelewski. “Also, if we have to travel for a meet, I’m going to have to limit the number of people who can go on the bus.”

Individual schools have been left to work out arrangments between themselves. Meets will be virtual unless both coaches agree to go in-person.

The CIAC is hoing to stage postseason meets. Given the number of swimmers who typically and the unavailabilty of traditional championship venue — Wesleyan, SCSU and Yale — those meets would be virtual by default.

So what does that mean for Cheshire’s title defenses? A total wait and see.

“We are focusing on what we can control,” Modzelewski said. “We don’t know what the end of the season is going to look like, so we are sticking with what we normally do for training. If things change, we can adjust.”

The Rams are riding a 67 dual-meet streak after going 12-0 last year, a run that also included an eighth straight SCC championship.

Barring a coronavirus interruption, there’s no reason to think any of that is in jeopardy in 2020. 

Yes, the Rams graduated 11 seniors, including four now swimming in college, led by 200 and 500 freestyle state champion Julia Stevens (Lehigh). They remain spectacularly deep and talented. They return 11 seniors, including four who have committed to college programs, led by 50 and 100 freestyle state champion Sophie Murphy (Georgia Tech).

Nora Bergstrom, Julia Stevens’ heir apparent in the distance freestyles, is going to Colgate. Bella Tejeda (Fairfield University) and Mary Barto (American University) are also ticketed for Division I.

Murphy is a three-time All-American. In her first three years of high school, she swept the 50 and 100 freestyles in the class meet. She won both events at the State Open the last two seasons.

In combination with Bergstrom, Murphy also won the Class LL 400 freestyle relay a year ago. Individually, Bergstrom placed third in the 200 and 500 freestyles in Class LL and was in the top-five at the State Open.

Tejeda, Barto and fellow senior Emma Glover have been state qualifiers since they were freshmen. Another senior, Ava Breton, has competed in the state finals for two seasons. Leading diver Natalie DeMatteo was sixth in Class LL

The underclass is also strong. Sophomores Avery Potyrala, Julianna Tyler and Vanessa Squillante delivered key points as freshmen last year. Potyrala was a state champ as part of the 400 free relay.

Modzelewski believes he has freshmen who can shine this year, such as Julia Barto, Grace Hanke and Morgan McDonough.

No lack of aqua wealth in Cheshire, to be sure. Our other area teams, though, like their prospects, too.

Southington

After an 8-2 season that saw them finish first in the CCC West meet, the Blue Knights bid adieu to 13 seniors, including school record-holders and State Open finalists Sarah Meade and Gianna Perugini.

They bring back a strong, veteran senior class led by captains Jenna Famiglietti, Meghan Hammarlund, Andie Nadeau, Adessa Noyes and Maddie Symecko.

Hammarlund holds two school records, both set at last year’s State Open: 58.19 in the 100 butterfly, 58.90 in the 100 backstroke. She was All-State in the fly and CCC West champ in the backstroke.

Nadeau, a distance freestyler, also holds two SHS marks. In winning CCC West crowns last year, she broke her own school record in the 200 (1;58.40) and lowered a standard in the 500 (5:18.88) that had stood since 1982.

Southington also brings back three solid sophomores in State Open finalist Emma Jekubovich and Class LL qualifiers Kendall Noonan and Kelsey Salerno. Senior divers Lizy Bealieu and Kelly Perrotti are coming off a State Open title run with the gymnastics team.

Coach Evan Tuttle also touts “an incredibly strong freshman class that will undoubtedly make an immediate impact with the program.”

Meriden

Coach Ed Heath subjects his swimmers to strict daily health protocols — questionaires, sanitizing, assigned seating, no using the locker room.

He’s determined to keep them healthy and keep their season afloat.

“The season is the most challenging since I became a high school coach,” said Heath. “I want to be able to give the girls a positive experience in the pool during a negative period in their lives.”

The Co-op graduated four-year veterans and senior captains Julia Owen and Haley Peacock. Stepping into their flip-flops as team leaders are seniors Samantha Morales-Barszcz and Hind Moumen.

Morales-Barszcz swims freestyle and backstroke. Moumen is a distance freestyler.

Also back is accomplished junior Avery Benigni. She was a state qualifier in the freestyle sprints and butterfly in each of her first two seasons.

Another returning butterflier, sophomore Kyla Evardone, qualified for states last year as a freshman. This year’s rookie wave features Rylie Benigni and Kamryn Yepez.

“Both have swimming experience and should be a positive influence to the team,” said Heath.

Lyman Hall

The Trojans bring back a solid core that features All-State and All-SCC swimmer Caroline Krawec and the de facto Rookie of the Year, Elise Richardson.

Krawec, still only a junior, was All-State a year ago in the breaststroke and All-Conference in the 200 individual medley. Richardson was All-SCC in the 100 freestyle.

Krawec will lead the team as a captain along with fellow junior Elena Bielesz and seniors Jaime Blois and Michaela Hinckley.

Bielesz was a state finalist last season. So was Zoe Gallo. She is heading into her junior season.

Add to the LH manifest returning All-SCC diver Alyssa Cervero and promising freshmen Nadia LeSieur and Hailey Baker.

“We are hoping to be able to complete the season with everyone healthy,” said coach Donna Neary. “As usual, I would like to see each girl accomplish their personal best.”

Sheehan

The Titans aren’t letting the times get them down. They’re hitting the pool with light hearts.

“We are full of energy, excited to compete virtually and loving practice ( we always have music playing and as the captains say singing during kicking sets are mandatory),” remarked coach Dan Wostbrock. “The goal this season is to grow as a team.  We are focused on the development of technique, setting individual performance goals, and enjoying our supportive positive environment.”

Sheehan’s top swimmers are senior Amy Bui and juniors Leila Sofiane and Katie Webb. The leading divers are seniors Lila Pickerign and Izzy Battista. Bui, Sofiane and Pickerign are the captains.

On Friday, Sheehan will open the season against Lyman Hall. The Titans roll first at 5 p.m. The Trojans do their thing at 7. It’s a new twist to the rivalry — literally, virtually.


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