MERIDEN — Allow me to come clean.
To get in the proper state of mind for today’s “Best of the Bunch” story on finalists for Swimmers of the Year, I deemed it necessary to jump in my pool Friday afternoon.
And, well, I got stuck out there awhile.
Apologies to the boys on the Copy Desk, who had to wait longer than necessary for this story to get filed.
No need for you to wait, well-tanned reader. Let’s jump right in...
We knew the 2021-22 swim season was automatically going to be better than its predecessor simply because the sport was returning to in-person meets. In 2020-21, during the pre-vaccination depths of the pandemic, competition was held virtually.
Better than nothing, yes, but the only link between “Zoom” and swimming should be the kick down the stretch in the 50-yard freestyle, or whatever your race of choice.
Swim meets require the trebly din of cheering teammates. They require a victory plunge from winning coach and team.
And they should require sports reporters to wear flip-flops, shorts, tie-dye T-shirts and copious amounts of sunblock (for the conjuring of summer in the short days of winter.)
It’s all about the ambiance, and it’s all about the times, decreasing steadily to the state championships and, hopefully, winning dual meets along the way.
Area teams did not lack for either in 2021-22. The Cheshire girls led the way by extending their latest dual-meet win streak to 86 with an eighth straight perfect regular season.
We’ll go out on a diving board and predict the Rams make it nine next year. After all, they return Avery Potyrala and Julia Barto.
Potyrala, a junior, propelled Cheshire to Class L crowns last fall in the 200 and 400 freestyle relays. Between conference and states, she won three individual titles: SCC champ in the 50 freestyle (24.45) and 100 butterfly (57.32), Class L champ in the 100 free (52.12).
All those times were area-bests among the girls. So was the 1:52.37 Potyrala swam in placing second in Class L in the 200 free.
Barto, only a sophomore, was also part of Cheshire’s Class L champion relays in the 200 and 400 freestyles.
Expect her to reel in individual titles over the next two years. Exceptionally diverse, Barto was SCC runner-up in the 200 and 500 freestyles and Class L runner-up in the 100 backstroke and 200 IM. She placed fourth in the IM at the State Open.
While Potyrala and Barto were helping the Rams extend their legacy, Caroline Krawec and Elise Richardson were leading Lyman Hall to one of its best seasons ever. At 7-0-1, the Trojans won a share of the SCC Division II title.
Krawec, a senior going on to swim at Fairfield University, was the SCC Division II Swimmer of the Year.
All-State since her freshman season, Krawec was SCC champ in the 100 breaststroke and went on to place second in the event in Class M and fourth at the State Open.
At the latter meet, the last of her scholastic career, Krawec lowered her school breaststroke record to 1:05.57.
She also qualified for the Open in the 200 IM with a second-place finish in Class M and she was part of Lyman Hall’s Class M champion 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays.
Richardson was also aboard for those relays, both of which set school records.
Like Krawec, Richardson has been top-notch since her freshman season. This year, as a junior, she broke out, winning Class M crowns in the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke. Her time of 58.74 in the backstroke is a program record.
Our boys finalists also had their share of school records.
Southington senior Landon Colby signed off with a postseason that saw him rewrite a handful of school marks, most of which had been on the board since the 1990s.
Colby captained Southington’s undefeated CCC West championship team and, individually, took the division crown in the 200 IM and with the 400 freestyle relay.
Moving on to the state meets, Colby finished in the top 8 in Class LL in four events: the 100 butterfly and 200 IM as well as with the 200 medley and 400 free relays. He advanced to the State Open in all four.
And, yes, he set school records in all four: butterfly (51.39), IM (1:58.90), medley relay (1:40.14) and 400 free relay (3:16.08).
Colby is going on to swim at Clarkson University in New York.
Also continuing his swimming career after a record-breaking scholastic run is Sam Hurlburt, Maloney’s best ever in the breaststroke.
Hurlburt was senior captain of the Meriden Co-op’s CCC South championship team. He set three program records: individually in the 100 breaststroke (1:00.67) and in the relays with the 200 medley (1:43.10) and 400 freestyle (3:25.81).
As a sophomore in 2020, Hurlburt went to work on the breaststroke record — not just the Co-op’s, but the one at Maloney that had stood for 20 years. As a senior in 2022, Hurlburt placed second in his signature event in the CCC South and fifth in Class L to qualify for the State Open.
He will continue swimming at Eastern Connecticut State.
A third area senior joins our list of boys finalists and that’s Cheshire’s Anmol Sapru. The leading upperclassman for the Rams, Sapru finished third in three events at the SCC Championships: 100 butterfly, 200 IM and 200 medley relay.
In the Class L state meet, Sapru placed sixth in the backstroke, seventh in the butterfly and sixth with both the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays. He went to the State Open in all four events and was eighth in the 100 backstroke with an area-best time of 52.34.
WIth such accomplished seniors graduating, it might seem the area pool deck will run a little dry next year. Not so. There was another All-Stater in the mix, and that’s Lyman Hall sophomore Jerick Lagamao.
Following up on his excellent rookie season of 2021, Lagamao attained All-State this year by finishinig second in the 100 butterfly (53.31) and fifth in the 100 backstroke (54.88) in Class M. He advanced to the State Open in both events.
Efforts of this editor to eclipse those times Friday afternoon — repeated efforts — proved futile.
On Deck: Cross country & track