MERIDEN — This winter, the Meriden Co-op boys swimming and diving team enjoyed its best season to date, racking up eight dual-meet victories and qualifying eight swimmers for the postseason.
A driving force was Maloney’s Matthew Desimone.
Desimone placed fifth in the 100-yard butterfly at the CCC South Championships and was one of the Co-op’s eight qualifiers for the Class LL meet, which due to the coronavirus was canceled along with the rest of the state championships in swimming, hockey and basketball.
Yet the team’s accomplishments are still worthy of the books, and coach Ed Heath promptly penned a page for Desimone in naming the senior his Record-Journal Scholar-Athlete from Maloney.
“Matthew is a fierce competitor who always gave 100 percent effort in any event he has swum. I always knew what I was getting from him,” Heath wrote. “He always worked hard to be the best swimmer he could be.”
Desimone’s academic record is impressive, too. With a 4.5 grade-point average, he stands No. 4 in Maloney’s Class of 2020.
The National Honor Society member placed in the top 10 in Project Excel, competed in UConn’s Martin Luther King essay contest and served as a student ambassador.
A musician, Desimone also plays in Maloney’s chamber orchestra and string quartet.
Desimone will major in Biology in college.
“He will be a positive influence wherever he attends school,” Heath said. “It was a pleasure to know and coach him.”
Desimone was one of seven Record-Journal Scholar-Athletes selected by their coaches at Maloney High School for the 2019-20 winter season. The others are as follows.
■Liv Aitken, girls basketball: Senior Liv Aitken went from an All-Conference season in soccer to running the point for the Spartans in basketball.
She was captain of both teams — for a second season in basketball, where she averaged 6.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists a game.
“Liv is the ultimate competitor and plays 29 minutes per game, as she is the primary ballhandler for a team with limited talent,” said Maloney basketball coach John Vieira. “She can be relied on to break a press — sometimes by herself — and does an excellent job leading both on and off the court through her commitment to the program over four years.
“I recommend her for this great honor with zero reservations,” Vieira added. “Liv would run through a brick wall for our program and I cannot thank her enough for her contributions in her four years with us.”
Aitken was All-CCC Academic in each of those four seasons.
Aitken carries a 4.2 GPA and is a pending inductee for the National Honor Society. She’s already a member of the Spanish National Honor Society.
A Certified Nursing Assistant, Aitken plans on studying Physical Therapy in college.
She participates in Skills USA and Maloney’s Athletic Leadership Council.
■Evan Avery, boys indoor track: This junior ran on the 4x800 relay team that repeatedly shattered its own school record in this year’s postseason meets.
Evan Avery combined with Reynaldo Torres, Xavier Zaler and Dominic Oliveri to run an 8:33.29 at the Central Connecticut Conference meet, an 8:27.22 at the CIAC Class L meet and then an 8:22.50 at the State Open.
The squad was fifth in the CCC, third in Class L and 10th at the Open. That earned the quartet a spot on the All-Record-Journal Indoor Track Team.
Individually, Avery holds another Maloney indoor track mark. It’s in the 300 meters: 37.99 seconds.
Academically, Avery has amassed a cumulative GPA of 3.9. He was named All-CCC Academic.
A year-round athlete, Avery runs cross country in the fall and plays baseball in the spring. He’s also a member of Maloney’s International Club
Avery likes to fish and he volunteers at the YMCA.
“Evan has shown through his development over the years that he can achieve whatever he sets his mind to,” said Derek Destefano, who coaches Avery in cross country and indoor track. “He is a fun, spirited student-athlete who brings positivity to our team and those around him.
“I believe that Evan has embraced our mindset of always trying to be better each and every day, as his recent successes can show,” Destefano added. “I am proud of the student-athlete Evan has become and can’t wait to see what he can do next year.”
■Onil Carrion, wrestling: Manning the 120-pound class for the Spartans, this sophomore went 30-10 in his second full season of varsity wrestling.
“Onil is a leader both on and off the mat,” said coach Joe Winoski. “He has the passion and desire to be great. Onil takes the right steps, learns from his own mistakes and capitalizes on those made by his opponents.
“Onil demands the best effort from himself and his teammates,” Winoski continued. “He is always cheering everyone on no matter what the score is. He understands that no match is over until the final whistle is blown.”
Carrion is a member of various clubs. He sings in the choir and plays in the Maloney band. His GPA is a robust 4.5.
“He is a 4.5 student in the classroom and his hard work there translates to his success on the mat,” Winoski noted. “He never complains about the grind or any of the sacrifices that he needs to make to be successful. Onil is one of the hardest workers in the room and his teammates can learn a lot just by watching his work ethic.”
■Kia Hull, cheerleading: A cheerleader and a track athlete, junior Kia Hull was carrying a 3.9 GPA coming out of the winter season.
She’s paying it forward, too. Hull volunteers with the Little Spartans Pre-School Program that the YMCA runs at Maloney High School.
■Garrison Kunst, boys basketball: Standing 6-foot-4 and carrying a GPA of 4-point-6, junior Garrison Kunst is a cornerstone of the Maloney basketball front court and its Class of 2021.
The Distinguished Honors student also plays lacrosse, competes with the Math Team and participates in Youth and Government. He’s also a Boy Scout in Troop 43 in Meriden.
This season in basketball, his second as a varsity regular, Kunst averaged 8.6 points and 6.4 rebounds. He was also good for two steals and two blocks a night.
Above all, Kunst is flat-out a team player.
“Garrison is an absolute pleasure to coach,” said coach Dave Parness. “He shows up every day willing to work, to take constructive criticism and to help push his teammates. He is the first guy to help a member of his team when they are struggling, to take blame for something he believes he could do better and to celebrate the accomplishments of someone else.
“The staff is looking forward to continuing watching his growth as a student-athlete as he continues his high school career.”
■Dasia Mongillo, girls indoor track: Maloney’s senior veteran competed this winter in the 55 meters and with the 4x200 and 4x400 relays.
That keeps her up to speed for softball, should the 2020 spring season come to pass. Mongillo is coming off a junior softball campaign in which she batted .318.
Mongillo is tearing up the academic basepaths with a 4.0 GPA.