WETHERSFIELD - Wethersfield and Rocky Hill drew a large crowd for last Tuesday’s swim meet, but it wasn’t the biggest turnout that Wethersfield head coach Lee Schwartzman has seen at Wethersfield High School.
“When we really have a good crowd this place is loud,” Schwartzman said following his squad’s conference victory over Rocky Hill.
The bordering schools faced off in a dual meet, with the host Eagles winning 101-79, but the final score was just part of the lively meet.
“We’re not really worried about the team results, we’re worried about the individual races,” said Rocky Hill head coach Lisa Cooney. “They have some great swimmers that can help push our swimmers to have great races. We focus more on the individual swims and we don’t look too much at the team score when we come here.”
Both schools are prepping for the conference and state finals coming in March, but on a day that Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring, they enjoyed the friendly and competitive nature of their cross-town showdown.
Wethersfield captain Colin Stewart received big cheers from the crowd when he took home first place in the 50 Freestyle. The senior edged out teammate and fellow senior captain Alan Ky for the win. Stewart finished with a time of 24.15 and Ky touched the wall at 24.48.
“Colin is changing events, which is a little different. He used to be a distance swimmer, but the needs of the team have forced the issue, so he’s been swimming the 50 and 100,” said Schwartzman. “He’s doing really well. He always swims really fast at the end of the year.”
Stewart’s adaptability in the water is both impressive and unique.
“It’s a little easier to cross over in swimming, but just like marathon runners and 100-meter dash guys would be different, typically someone is either built for distance or speed,” added Schwartzman, who also coaches the girls team at Wethersfield. “For a sprint event it’s typically bigger, more muscular guys. For the distant events it’s leaner, lankier guys.”
Stewart formerly swam the 500 freestyle, but freshman Shane Bresnahan assumed the long distance duties versus Rocky Hill, winning with a time of 5:15.34. Rocky Hill sophomore Brian Speers finished as the runner-up with a time of 5:24.59.
“It’s about the equivalent effort level as running a mile race,” Schwartzman added about the endurance event. “It’s not really a sprint, it’s more like a controlled sprint.”
Bresnahan, who is one of seven freshmen on the Eagles’ roster, also won the 200 freestyle at the event.
A pair of freshmen also provided the closest race of the night during the 100 breaststroke. Wethersfield’s Matthew Iallonardo beat Rocky Hill’s Adam Chao in a photo finish. Iallonardo touched the wall at 1:11.66 and Chao reached moments later at 1:11.97. The exciting finish brought the attending fans to their feet for the final 25 meters.
The overall talent at the meet was tremendous, featuring several swimmers who will be counted on when the conference and state titles roll around.
“Our strongest swimmer on the team is Joseph Sullivan. He’s a junior and can swim every event that we have,” said Cooney. “He’s just an amazing all-around swimmer. He finished sixth in the breaststroke last year at states. We’re looking for maybe a top-three finish this year and making all-state, which would be awesome.”
Sullivan placed first in both the 100 freestyle and the 200 individual medley against Wethersfield.
“I have 12 seniors. We have a lot of depth from the seniors to the freshmen. They are all amazing,” added Cooney. “I have 33 swimmers and I honestly think that this is our strongest team in a long time because of the depth that we have.”
One of the seniors is Matthew Callahan, who competed at states last season and is looking to close out his high school career with another good showing.
“Matt is a strong swimmer both physically and mentally,” Cooney said. “He’s the kind of kid who might not be in the race physically, but mentally he’ll do well and finish to the wall.”
Schwartzman has a relatively young team in comparison and pointed to a few underclassmen that have been thrust into the spotlight this season.
“Blake Fulton and Austin Bovino. As freshman they did really well, but they also had a senior ahead of them. Chris Piccione was a very good, well-rounded swimmer and won the state title in the 100 fly. Austin is a flyer, so last year he had the security blanket of having Chris, who would go out and win almost any event he was in,” Schwartzman said. “In most sports you wouldn’t be asking a sophomore to take the reins. A sophomore isn’t usually the starting quarterback of the football team or the starting guard of the basketball team, but there’s no seniority here. The fastest kids swim the events.”
Bovino finished first in the 100 fly and was a leg on two relay teams--200 and 400 freestyle--that posted the fastest times versus Rocky Hill.
Fulton was a leg on the 200 medley relay that won the first event of the evening.
The local teams will also be counting on their divers. Ryan McOmber, Leiah Cutkomp and Nick Huynh dove for Wethersfield and Andre Costa dove for Rocky Hill. McOmber posted the best overall score (169.40) of the four divers at the event.
Both squads are now in the last month of the regular season with the conference championships looming during the first week in March and the state finals the following week.
“Winning conference is our main goal this season,” said Schwartzman, whose team members are looking to capture their 10th consecutive conference title. “There have been a lot of years when the conference wasn’t a goal, but it was just an expectation. With Avon joining it will make it more difficult.”
“This is my eighth year, so it surpasses me. I don’t and I know the guys don’t want to let it go. We like our interior decorating,” Schwartzman said with a smile as he pointed to the several boys and girls conference championship banners on the wall.
“I’m looking for the team to start swimming the races that they will swim at states to find out what we need to work on,” said Cooney. “I’m starting to look at those kids that I know will be going to states and start fine tuning some things. Right now we’re not looking to do best time. When we do it’s a bonus. We try and swim through our meets and prepare for states.”
Cooney and her Terriers have three regular season meets remaining, starting with Newington on Thursday at Rocky Hill High School. The meet starts at 3:45 p.m.
Friday, Schwartzman’s aquatic Eagles visit Hartford Public, but return home next Tuesday, Feb. 16, to also face Newington for a 5 p.m. start.