MERIDEN — It’s the sport that provided some of the most memorable nights of the year.
A state class championship at Wesleyan. A State Open championship at Yale. That was all Cheshire.
A lively All-Record-Journal photo shoot at 500 South Broad Street. That was everybody.
Hey, when you do your thing in a pool, is the party ever far behind?
Truth be told, our girls swim teams are all business. The sport was one of three to produce an area state champion in the abbreviated scholastic year that was 2019-20.
While we can only speculate on what might have been in some other sports, we know full well what we had in the pool: some of the best female swimmers in the state.
Prove it? Sure. Six area swimmers were All-State. Three others were All-State as part of relays.
And, of course, there was Cheshire. The Rams ran their dual-meet streak to 67, won their eighth straight SCC conference title, their third straight state class championship and topped it off with their first State Open crown since 2004.
What made it even more impressive was that Cheshire moved up from Class L to Class LL and twice took down Greenwich, Connecticut’s most checkered swimming school.
Southington had a pretty good run of it, too. The Lady Knights brought home the CCC West conference championship and produced the first our of three finalists for Record-Journal Girls Swimmer of the Year.
That’s Meghan Hammarlund. A standout since she was a freshman, Hammarlund punctuated her junior campaign with two program records and All-State laurels.
The records were her own. Hammarlund re-set them both at the State Open: 58:19 in the 100 butterfly, 58.90 in the 100 backstroke.
Hammarlund was All-State in the butterfly. She was the CCC West champ in the backstroke.
For good measure, Hammarlund also swam on the 200 medley and 400 freestyle relay teams that won CCC West titles and ultimately advanced to State Open. The 400 free relay swam a school-record 3:41.41 at the Open.
So we stand corrected. Hammarlund was part of three Southington records in 2019. We also stand at pool’s edge, eager to see what Hammarlund can do in her final season.
Our two other finalists were pivotal parts of the Big Red Cheshire machine. Senior Julia Stevens and junior Sophie Murphy won two individual events apiece at the Class LL meet, then repeated the feat at the State Open.
Stevens swept the distance freestyle races. Murphy, the reigning Record-Journal Girls Swimmer of the Year, swept the sprints for a second straight year.
Stevens, who is going on to swim at Lehigh University, won the 200 freestyle in 1:52.31 and the 500 free in 4:58.14 in Class LL. Her times at the Open were 1:51.97 and 4:59.55, respectively.
Victory in the 200 free was particularly impressive when you consider the event comes right on the heels of the 200 medley relay. Stevens swam in that race with her twin sister Jillian, fellow senior Sarah Chen and junior Emma Glover. They were second in Class LL, fifth at the Open.
As for Murphy, she was textbook and untouchable in defending her titles. The junior steadily trimmed time at each stage of the posteason, culminating at the State Open with a 23.68 in the 50 free and a 51.08 in the 100.
The bonus: Class LL gold and State Open silver in the 400 freestyle relay. Murphy swam anchor on that quartet behind freshman Avery Potyrala, junior Nora Bergstrom and Julia Stevens.
It was the last turn together for Murphy and Stevens. Though who knows? Maybe one more memorable night is somewhere in the offing.
The Record-Journal Girls Swimmer of the Year will be announced on Thursday, June 18 during the airing of the “Best of the Bunch” awards video on Facebook at 6:30 p.m. The video will also be available on myrecordjournal.com after that initial airing. Finalists in the various awards categories will be unveiled now through June 18. Up next: Girls Volleyball.