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GIRLS SWIMMING: The races will go to the swift! Barto, Gajecki, Markoja lead locals into state meets

MERIDEN — Cornerstone Aquatics Center is indeed the cornerstone of area aspirations for this week’s CIAC championships in girls swimming.

Cheshire and the Meriden Co-op head up to the West Hartford pool for the Class L meet on Tuesday with seven No. 1 seeds in tow.

Cheshire, not suprisingly, holds the lion’s share.

But check out the Meriden Co-op and its sophomore standout, Addison Markoja, who continues to be one of the area’s top competitors.

The distance freestyler broke two Meriden Co-op records at Saturday’s Class L qualifying meet, swimming a 1:55.04 in the 200 free and a 5:09.70 in the 500.

Those times earned Markoja the No. 1 seed in the 200 and the No. 2 seed in the 500.

The top time in the 500? Markoja is second only to Cheshire’s reigning All-American, Julia Barto. The senior lopped a full 10 seconds off her seed time at Saturday’s trials to earn the No. 1 seed in Class L at 4:58.61.

It stands to be a banner day for Barto, who also posted the fastest qualifying time in the 200 IM (2:02.95) and anchors Cheshire’s top-seeded 200 freestyle relay behind junior Alicia Shatalov and freshmen Gabrielle Williamson and Annabelle Superchi (1:41.32).

Ditto for Natalia Gajecki.

The Cheshire junior is the No. 1 seed in the 100 backstroke (56.95), the No. 1 seed in the butterfly (58.41) and the lead leg on the No. 2 medley relay ahead of Williamson, junior Carly Cahill and senoir Grace Hanke (1:51.18).

(Gajecki is the defending Class L champ in the backstroke; Barto won that event at the State Open, as well as the 200 IM.)

The Rams also hold the No. 1 seed in the 400 freestyle relay with the team of freshman Courtney Gutman, Hanke, Superchi and junior Julia Tejeda (3:41.84).

In all, they’ve got 14 qualifiers in the championship heats and at least one in every event save for the 100 breaststroke.

Will it be enough to overtake three-time defending Class L champ Darien and other prime contenders such as Wilton and Newtown for the team title? Tuesday night at Cornerstone will tell.

At the same meet, Markoja will go gunning for her first state crown. She’ll also swim anchor on the Co-op’s freestyle relays, which are both in the championship heats as the No. 7 seed.

Markoja will be joined by junior Sarah Kim and seniors Rylie Benigni and Kamryn Yepez on both relays. The group qualified with times of 1:44.52 in the 200 and 3:47.55 in the 400. Kim, with a qualifying time of 59.88, is the No. 4 seed in the backstroke.

Tuesday will also see the Class LL championships at Wesleyan and the Class M meet at SCSU. Class S swims Wednesday at SCSU.

There are local teams in each. Here’s how they line up.


The Blue Knights head to Wesleyan for the Class LL meet led by All-State senior Ella Nadeau.

Nadeau is finishing her stellar four-year career in style. She set school records winning the 100 freestyle and backstroke in the CCC West Championships and broke another program record swimming a 2:09.95 in the IM at Saturday’s Class LL trials.

Nadeau is seeded No. 5 in the IM and No. 6 in the breaststroke (1:07.71). She’ll also swim on Southington’s seventh-seeded 200 medley relay (1:53.02) and anchor the fifth-seeded 400 free relay (3:44.04).

Nadeau will be joined on both of those relays by classmate Julia Laszewski, who is in the midst of her own fine senior season. Laszewski holds the No. 9 seed in the 100 freestyle (55.30) and the No. 13 in the 200 (2:02.6).

Those are consolation races, but Laszewski is still in position to swim times that will qualify her for Sunday’s State Open at Yale.

Other Blue Knights to watch are senior Veronica Okurowski, No. 8 in the butterfly (1:00.70), and junior Reaghan Samson, No. 10 in the 500 free (5:27.65).

Okurowski is also on the medley relay with Nadeau, Laszewski and sophomore Alexandra Szczepanik.

Okurowski and Szczepanik combine with senior Kyra-Thien Nguyen and junior Mariam Labadze on the fourth-seeded 200 freestyle (1:44.20). Nguyen and Labadze team with Lazewski and Nadeau on the 400 free.

Lyman Hall

LH reaped Class M laurels for the past two years behind state champ Elise Richardson, who is now swimming at Bryant University.

The good times, though, aren’t necessariy over for the Trojans. They’ve got contenders in senior Hailey Baker, sophomore Grace D’Amico and their 200 medley relay.

Baker, a four-year vet who was on Lyman Hall’s medley and 200 free Class M champion relays in 2021, holds the No. 2 seed in both the butterfly (1:02.48) and breaststroke (1:08.39).

D’Amico is the No. 2 seed in the backstroke (1:02.09) and she’ll lead off the third-seeded medley relay ahead of Baker and juniors Meredith Loughlin and Jessica Rinaldi. The quartet swam a 1:55.97 in qualifying.

LH has already gotten a jump in the team scoring by placing four of their divers in the top 10 on Thursday in Middletown. Sienna DeLucia was third (360.00), Sara Blazejowski fourth (357.55) and Maggie Corso fifth (352.15).

All three have qualified for the State Open.

SCC champion Adriana Waton placed eighth (307.60).


The Titans have placed sixth in Class S in each of the past two years. Chances are good they’ll move up the ladder Wednesday at SCSU.

The SCC Division II champs have four individual swimmers and two relays in championship heats, led by sophomore Isabelle Hodum, the No. 2 seed in the 200 free (2:00.52) and the 500 (5:27.04).

Hodum heads an extremely young team that has already come into its own. She’ll be joined by fellow sophomores Jae Welch and Kaylynn Chen on the fifth-seeded 200 medley relay (1:58.57).

Chen, Sheehan’s sprinter, is the fifth seed in both the 50 free (25.42) and 100 (56.04).

Welch holds the No. 6 seed in the backstroke (1:05.37) and the No. 9 in the IM (2:24.24).

The Titans have also gotten a strong rookie season from freshman Riley McMahon. She’s No. 5 in the 500 (5:35.58) and will swim on the two freestyle relays, leading off the fourth-seeded 200 (1:45.78) and anchoring the ninth-seeded 400 (4:10.03).

McMahon will be joined by Hodum, Chen and senior Hanna Nagy Leranth on the 200 and by Welch, sophomore Sophie Math and fellow freshman Julia Cabral on the 400.

In Class S diving, held last week at Sheehan, Paige Duffey finished seventh (320.95) and Emmalyn Rodriguez ninth (301.05).


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