GIRLS SWIMMING: Individual titles for Murphy, Stevens lead Cheshire to Class L title defense

NEW HAVEN — Swimming may be an individual sport, but the Cheshire girls have proven to be the best team in Class L the past two years.

Don’t expect Cheshire’s dominance to stop any time soon.

Behind a sensational sophomore and twin juniors, the Rams won their second straight team championship Tuesday night at Southern Connecticut State University. Cheshire swimmers won five of the first seven events Tuesday night and steadily pulled away in the pool.

The Rams finished with 829.5 points, easily defending their Class L championship. Cheshire had clinched the team title heading into the final event of the night, as the Rams led Darien by 180 points going into the 400-yard free relay. For good measure, the Rams won that, too.

Cheshire captured the title by 248 points over Darien. The Lyman Hall girls finished ninth with 209.50 points.

Cheshire’s Julia Stevens and Sophia Murphy each won a pair of individual golds medals as the Rams swept the freestyle races. Stevens was also on both of Cheshire’s winning relay teams, while Murphy capped off Cheshire’s dominating night by anchoring the winning 400 free relay.

“Darien has a lot of depth, New Cannon has some great swimmers, but I think our depth eventually took it over,” Cheshire head coach David Modzelewski said. “Both Julia and Sophie swam really, really well today. But the goal all season has been Opens, so hopefully we’ll have one more good meet.”

Modzelewski is referring to the CIAC State Open on Saturday at Yale University, where Cheshire’s girls should be a force after winning six of 11 races Tuesday night.

Stevens won the 200 freestyle in 1:52.05 and the 500 in 5:02.53. Her twin sister, Jillian, was part of Cheshire’s 200 medley relay team that started the Rams’ winning ways. Jillian was also third in the 100 backstroke.

The Rams’ sensational sophomore, Sophie Murphy, also won her two individual races, splashing and dashing her way to a gold in the 50 free in 24:11  and then coming back to win the 100 free in 51.44. It was Murphy’s second straight Class L win in the 50, while she was second in the 100 as a freshman.

“I was so excited to finally win states last year. I was just so surprised,” Murphy said. “Going back to back just shows how good our team is overall.”

The Stevens sisters got the Rams off to a strong start in the 200 medley relay by swimming the butterfly and freestyle legs. But it was Jillian, not Julia, who swam the anchor freestyle leg for Cheshire, which won the race in 1:47.87. Julia swam the butterfly.

Nevertheless, Wethersfield couldn’t keep up with whoever the Rams put the pool, as the Eagles were second, four-tenths of a second behind the Rams. New Canaan finished third.

Cheshire’s dominance really showed in the 500 free, where the Rams finished first, second and fourth. Finishing behind Julia Stevens was senior Samantha Grenon (5:04.57), while sophomore Nora Bergstrom was fourth (5:08.80). Grenon was also second in the 200 IM (2:06.63) and swam a leg on the winning 400 free relay with Bergstrom, Murphy and Julia Stevens (3:31.70).

While the Rams dominated, there were other strong local performances. Lyman Hall freshman Caroline Krawec third in the 100 breaststroke (1:07.01) and seventh in the 200 IM (2:14.00).

Krawec also joined Faith Gambardella, Sarah Beverage and Kristie Driscoll for a fifth-place finish in the 200 medley (1:52.57) and a sixth-place performance in the 200 free (1:42.44).

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