By John Goralski
Bryan Adie set the pace with the first leg of the 200 freestyle relay, and it became clear that it was a three-team race with Farmington and Conard. Adam Sokolowski and Kolton Jankowski kept the pace through the next two legs, but as Joe Taglia flipped at the turn of the final leg, Southington was in the middle of a battle.
Farmington had pushed ahead at the fastest heat of the CCC Championship meet, but Southington was still holding their own against Conard’s powerhouse relay.
“It was pretty much neck-and-neck the whole way,” said Blue Knight swim coach Evan Tuttle. “We were separated by two lanes so it was tough to see each other in the pool, but we put everything into it and we were the first ones into the wall.”
When Taglia struck the wall, Tuttle swung his attention to the board behind him. Southington had edged Conard by almost a full second, and their time (1:37.57) pared almost two seconds of the team’s previous best.
“That was a huge race for us,” said Tuttle. “We needed to drop some times if we want to have a chance to get back to the state opens. We still need to drop some more times, but that was a good pick-me-up. Throughout the regular season, we were never able to drop below 1:39.”
On Thursday, Feb. 29, the Blue Knight swim team entered the conference meet with one final chance to measure their potential for the upcoming state meet, and what better place than the CCC West? Tapers have begun for the postseason. Athletes are coming into a window of peak performance, and the CCC West has no shortage of top swimmers.
The Knights have an uphill climb if they are going to make a third straight push for a state open berth, and a fourth place finish at the conference meet was a great start. Regular season champ Farmington won easily with 308 points. Conard (276.5) and Hall (201) battled for the next two spots, and Southington came in right behind them with 152 points.
More importantly, the Knights scored a baker’s dozen with 13 top 10 performances at the championship meet.
“We knew going into the meet that it would be hard to finish above Farmington, Conard, and Hall with our team totals, but we were looking for individual growth and improvement overall,” said Tuttle. “We wanted to try to get a few more kids qualified for states, and that’s what we did. We had a couple of more automatic qualifying times and a couple more kids that gave themselves a pretty good shot with some new best times in their events.”
Southington fared well in the relays. Ed Klein, Matt Duszak, Vladislav Kiveliyk, and Adie combined for a fourth place finish in the 200 medley relay (1:50.67) with Southington’s B-relay scoring 10th place in the event (1:58.81). Klein partnered with Peter Masters, Nick Brazil, and Mack Golos to capture 10th place overall in the 400 freestyle race (3:53.67). The best performance of the day was the second place finish in the 200 freestyle, but Southington’s B-relay captured seventh place overall (1:43.61).
“We swam very well,” said Tuttle. “I was excited, and it was another chance to get the entire team involved in a meet.”
The Knights managed to score a number of individual top 10 finishes. Kiveliyk scored an automatic qualifying time in the 200 freestyle (1:55.04) with his fifth place finish, and he went on to finish seventh overall in the 100 butterfly (58.14). Jankowski earned a pair of top 10 finishes with an eight place showing in the 200 IM (2:19.02) and a sixth place finish in the 100 breaststroke (1:08.38) with a state-qualifying time.
Golos scored a pair of top finishes with an eighth place score in the 500 freestyle (5:26.64) and an eighth place performance in the 200 freestyle (1:58.05).
Taglia finished 10th overall in the 50 freestyle (24.53). Klein finished fourth in the 100 backstroke (1:01.43) and Duszak placed fourth in the 100 breaststroke (1:07.69).
Tuttle said that it’s a good indication of how the Knights will perform on Saturday at the Class LL qualifying meet in Hamden where Southington looks to advance as many swimmers as possible into the Class LL finals.
“A lot of the kids that finished in the top six at the CCC West meet are the same kids that we’ll see at states, and we were in a lot of those top six as well,” said Tuttle. “It’s a good measuring stick. We know that, if we can hang in here at the CCC West meet, there’s a good chance we can perform at states. Hopefully, we’ll get a few kids into the finals and try to get back to the opens for the third straight year.”
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobserver.com.