CHESHIRE — It was one of the best stories of the fall season.
Cheshire girls swimming extended its dual-meet win streak to 67 during the regular season, dethroned nine-time reigning champ Greenwich in Class LL and then — prize of prizes — captured the overall championship at the State Open.
As deep as the Rams are, you need good senior captains to lead the way, and Jillian Stevens was one of those captains.
She’s a heck of a swimmer, too. Stevens earned All-State status by placing fourth in the 100-yard backstroke at the State Open in 57.21 seconds.
Stevens was also part of the vaunted 200 medley relay that was second in the SCC, second in Class LL and fifth at the State Open.
For good measure, Stevens qualified for the State Open in a second individual event: the 200 IM.
“Jillian was a senior captain this year and helped organize all of our team events as well as our community efforts,” noted coach Dave Modzelewski. “In the classroom, Jillian always exceeds expectations and is a member of many extracurricular clubs. In the pool, Jillian is an All-SCC performer, All State performer and a great team leader.”
Stevens was one of eight Record-Journal Scholar-Athletes selected by their coaches at Cheshire High School for the 2019 fall season.
All eight will be invited to the Record-Journal’s fifth annual “Best of the Bunch” awards brunch at the Aqua Turf Club in late June. All eight are in the running for Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Stevens comes away from the fall season with a 4.93 GPA. The All-SCC Academic is a member of the National Honor Society as well as Mu Alpha Theta, the national math honor society. She’s earned a National Latin Exam Award.
Next year, Stevens will be off to Bryant University, where she’ll continue swimming and major in managerial accounting and finance.
■Lindsey Abramson, girls volleyball: Lindsey Abramson has been an All-Record-Journal volleyball player since her freshman year.
That did not change this season. The senior led the Rams in kills (194) and aces (71) and was second in digs (84).
Those numbers helped land Cheshire a fourth straight SCC divisional championship during a 14-4 regular season and returned Abramson to the All-SCC First Team. And, for a second straight year, she was named All-State Second Team.
At season’s end, Abramson was selected to play in the Senior All-Star Game.
“Lindsey has been a consistent offensive threat for us the past two seasons. When she’s not getting kills, she’s getting aces,” said coach Sue Bavone. “I know that when she goes back to serve she will pressure the passers across the net.”
Academically, meanwhile, Abramson upped an already formidable game. With a first-semester GPA of 4.98, Abramson raised her overall GPA to 4.33.
A year from now, she’ll be studying Biomedical Engineering on a Pre-Med track at Kenyon College in Ohio, where she’s also committed to play volleyball.
Abramson, who also plays softball, is a member of both the National Honor and Science National Honor societies. She was Cheshire’s English Student of the Year as a sophomore. She participates in Best Buddies and Peer Advocates.
“She is a strong all-around player who excells in the classroom as well as on the volleyball court,” said Coach Bavone. “She has been a great asset to our team.”
■Thomas Bonitz, boys soccer: With a 4.773 GPA, senior Thomas Bonitz is setting his college sights high. He’ll be applying to Harvard, William & Mary and Washington University in St. Louis.
Bonitz has been on the Harvard radar, having won a Harvard Book Award earlier this year.
A member of three honor societies — National, Science and Mu Alpha — the AP Scholar with Honor is interested in geographic information science and environmental studies. He’s a member of Model U.N and has attended conferences at Johns Hopkins and Cheshire Academy.
Then there’s soccer. His Cheshire coach, Artur Branco, can see Bonitz playing the game at the next level.
“Thomas Bonitz is an enjoyable player to watch and one of the better players in the SCC,” Branco remarked. “He has been a vital player for us this year. He is one of the reasons why we have been able to compete this year.
“He is very committed to the team and the game of soccer. He is extremely technical, understands and reads the game very well. Thomas will be a very effective collegiate soccer player.”
A four-year player with the Rams, Bonitz was named All-SCC Second Team this season, which saw Cheshire go 11-5-1. In the end, Bonitz was selected to play in the Senior Bowl.
Bonitz also plays volleyball. He’s played for the Rams in that sport since his freshman year and was named Cheshire’s Most Valuable Player in 2018.
A musician, Bonitz has been playing viola in the Cheshire High School Orchestra since his freshman year. He also played in the New England Music Festival Orchestra during the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years. This year, he’s with the Connecticut Southern Region Orchestra.
■Izzy Dzuira, girls soccer: Izzy Dzuira has been a varsity soccer player for Cheshire for two years and she’s only a sophomore.
A verstile one, too. While playing defense, Dzuira also scored seven goals and assisted on two others as the Rams went 14-4-2.
“She stepped up and played a position that is not normal for her and excelled,” head coach Kylee McIntosh noted.
Dzuira earned Distinguished Honors throughout her freshman year and currently holds a 4.19 GPA. She volunteers at the Cheshire Public Library and participates in Lights of Hope.
“Izzy is a brilliant individual on and off the field,” McIntosh said. “Every day for practice she is always ready to go and eager to get better. That same attitude is brought into the classroom. As her coach and being a teacher as well, I see a fire in Izzy’s eyes to always better and push herself.
“This drive is something I would love to see in all my players and students. Although she is young, she is a leader in all areas of her life.”
■Owen Fiore, boys cross country: A year-round runner for the Rams, senior Owen Fiore helped the Rams finish fourth in the team standings at the SCC Cross Country Championships at East Shore Park and again at the CIAC Class L state meet at Wickham Park.
Fiore’s built for the long run academically, too. He’s carrying a 4.45 GPA.
An AP Scholar with Honor, Fiore is a member of the Mu Alpha Theta math honor society and is a National German Exam silver medalist.
Fiore also participates in Best Buddies, DECA and the Spikeball Club.
“Owen is a very hard-working and dedicated student and athlete,” said cross country coach Pam Gunneson. “He always gives his best effort, which can be demonstrated through his academic accomplishments maintaining a 4.45 GPA and as a reliable team member.
“It has been a pleasure to work with Owen and I know that he will have much success in his future endeavors. He will be greatly missed by the coaches and his teammates next year.”
■Audrey Kiesling, girls cross country: This young lady was not an overnight sensation for the Rams. She is, however, a testament to a never-quit work ethic.
“Audrey is a talented runner who worked and worked until she finally secured a spot on the CHS varsity team,” reported coach Rob Schaefer. “Health issues stopped her in her first three seasons, but nothing got in her way this year.
“She worked as hard as anyone on our team, led her teammates by example, worked very well with her coaches and was admired by all on the team.”
Kiesling wound up becoming one of the team’s senior captains. She usually ran in the 6-7 position for the Candy Stripers.
Kiesling’s work ethic extends to the classroom. She started her senior year taking four Advanced Placement classes and is carrying a 4.826 GPA.
English is the major she might pursue in college.
■Emma Shalagan, field hockey: The R-J welcomes Emma Shalagan to its Scholar-Athlete roster. It’s one of several that she’s on. This senior is an All-SCC Academic as well as a National Field Hockey Coaches Association All-Academic.
Shalagan holds a 3.887 GPA and will study speech pathology in college.
At Cheshire High, she sings in the V.I.P. choir. At work, she’s a chief assistant at the Kumon Math and Reading Center. At the YMCA, she’s a member of the Leaders Club.
■Jason Shumilla, football: Back to full health after seeing his junior season cut short by an injury, Jason Shumilla returned to his job at quarterback and helped lead the Rams to their first state playoff appearance since 2009.
Shumilla completed 91 of 168 passes for 1,253 yards and 14 touchdowns as the Rams went 8-2 in the regular season. Shumilla also ran 57 times for 282 yards.
It wasn’t all play for Shumilla. During the season, the senior boosted his GPA to 4.07.