By John Goralski
It was clear right from the start that the 50 freestyle was going to come down to two people. They hit the water at the same time. At the turn, nobody was even close. Southington swimmers cheered on the deck as the two raced for the finish, and why wouldn’t they?
The freestyle sprint could only be won by one of two swimmers, and both were Blue Knights.
Bryan Adie (23.97) edged Joe Taglia (24.22) for the victory, but both were winners at the meet. For both of them, it was a rare chance to compete in the sprint event. For both of them, it was a state-qualifying time.
“Those are two kids that bust their tails 24/7,” said Blue Knight swim coach Evan Tuttle. “It’s their devotion to this sport and this team that pays off in the end. I was able to move them around and get them into the 50 freestyle today. Normally I’m not able to do that, but the result was two state qualifiers.”
On Friday, Feb. 1, the Southington swim team returned to action after a week and a half of practice, and there was no sign of rust as Southington swam past Plainville, 92-85. Tuttle used the meet as a measure for his team’s progress as they prepare for the most gruelling stretch in their regular season schedule.
“Today, we showed the advantage that we haven’t had in the past couple of years, and that was depth and numbers,” said the coach. “I had extremely high expectations coming into this meet because we had some opportunities to work on some improvements in practice. That’s exactly what I saw today—little things in terms of starts and turns, and those little things made huge differences. Ultimately, it launched a couple of our kids into states.”
Ed Klein, Matt Duszak, Vladislav Kiveliy, and Taglia combined for a victory in the 200 medley relay (1:51.8), and Southington never looked back. Mack Golos followed with a win in the 200 freestyle (2:01.19) to set the stage for Adie and Taglia’s duel in the 50 freestyle. Southington never trailed. The Knight rallied for wins in seven of the next nine events to build a 92-47 lead and turned to exhibition races in the last three events.
Adie captured wins in the 50 freestyle and 100 breaststroke (1:12.02). Kiveliyk was a double winner in the 100 butterfly (59.71) and the 500 freestyle (5:41.66). Taglia captured the title in the 100 freestyle (55.4). Taglia and Adie teamed with Kolton Jankowski and Adam Sokolowski for a win in the 200 freestyle relay (1:39.34).
Even the divers stepped up at the meet with Mike MacDonald approaching a state qualifying score with his second place finish (138.45). McKenzie Pelletier (121.45) and Mariah Washer (108.15) both scored.
“We’re right where we need to be.” said Tuttle. “We’re poised for the gauntlet that we have coming up. We’re going to be swimming three of the top teams in the state in this upcoming weeks, and that’s going to be a challenge. It’s absolutely going to be an uphill battle, but good teams rise to a challenge.”
Now, the Knights (3-2) will face their toughest test of the season with upcoming meets against Farmington, Conard, and Hall over the next 10 days. Win or lose, Tuttle expects to build momentum as his swimmers jockey for postseason qualifying times.
“We’re fortunate in swimming to have multiple forms of success,” he said. “We’re going to be using these teams in the upcoming weeks as measuring sticks for where we can be in the postseason. I fully expect to pull some upsets against these teams in some individual events. We’re going to surprise people.”
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobserver.com.