by John Goralski
Coach Evan Tuttle tried to hide his disappointment as Mack Golos rebounded off the wall for his first turn in the 500 freestyle. The sophomore swimmer already had a commanding lead.
He was ripping through the water with the power of a sprinter, and Southington fans were drowning out cheers at the Hamden pool.Tuttle seemed to be the only one that realized the danger.
Golos was competing in a distance event. Slow and steady usually wins the race.
“Sometimes in those distance events you see kids jump out to a big lead, but they can’t sustain it,” said the coach. “It’s usually the kids that set a good pace that end up winning, but he held onto that quick pace and built that lead every single lap through 20 laps.”
Golos proved to be the exception. He never slowed, and the clock read 5:14.72 when he slapped the wall at the finish. It was fast enough to win his heat at the 2013 Class LL qualifying meet. It was fast enough to win the next, faster heat, and to pick off a few others that scored faster in the regular season.
“That was, by far, his best time. It was the best time that anybody put in for the 500 this year,” said Tuttle. “Mack was a big underdog. He was questionable to even make qualifiers, but he knocked off several of the kids in the other heats to finish in the 24th spot, and he was the last one to get into finals.”
On Saturday, March 9, the Southington boys swim team launched themselves into the postseason like never before. Eight Knights competed over nine races, and every single one of them trimmed seconds from their qualifying times. Nine advanced to the final competition with another one clawing his way into the mix as an alternate.
The finals meet, held on Tuesday after we went to press, welcomed the biggest number of Southington swimmers in at least 15 years.
“This is the most kids that we’ve sent to finals in my tenure and as long as I can remember at Southington High School,” said Tuttle. “We had a state open champion last year, but we’re sending a greater volume of kids to finals this year. That’s a tremendous accomplishment. We had kids who were questionable just to get into the qualifiers ended up putting in great performances and getting into the finals.”
Bryan Adie led the way with four finals berths. He dropped almost a full second in the 50 freestyle (23.07) to reach the finals, and he advanced as a member of three relays. Vladislav Kiveliyk advanced to the finals in the 200 freestyle (1:52.42), the 100 butterfly (56.74), and a relay.
Up and down the roster, Southington posted best times. Ed Klein dropped more than a second to advance to finals in the 100 backstroke (59.27). Matt Duszak dropped almost three seconds in the breaststroke (1:04.75).
Klein, Duszak, and Adie teamed with Kolton Jankowski to set a new mark in the 200 medley relay (1:47.01) to reach the finals. Adie, Joe Taglia, Jankowski, and Kiveliyk pared more than three seconds off their previous time in the 200 freestyle relay (1:34.19) to reach the final meet. Taglia, Klein, and Adie partnered with Adam Sokolowski to trim three seconds off their time in the 400 freestyle relay (3:33.44) to advance.
“This is exactly what I was hoping for. We were looking to have kids drop times, and we were looking to get kids into the finals,” said Tuttle. “We were hoping for as many as we could get. Conservatively, I was hoping to get two or three into the finals, but we’re sending someone in all but two events.”
Even when they didn’t reach the finals, Southington swimmers continued to set personal bests. Golos reached the finals in the 500 freestyle and just missed in the 200 freestyle despite trimming almost two seconds off his qualifying score (1:56.11). Taglia set a best time in the 50 freestyle (23.55) and just missed the cut. Jankowski dropped two seconds off his time in the 100 breaststroke (1:06.74) and still has a chance to compete as the first alternate in that event, but all three advanced in other events.
“We did great. I knew that we were going to have a strong meet, and we absolutely did—perhaps even stronger than anticipated,” said the coach. “We had nothing but best times, and it wasn’t just by a little bit. We had some best times by significant drops, and it was everybody. There wasn’t a single athlete that didn’t swim above his best time.”
Despite their efforts, Tuttle said that it will still take some work to return to the state opens. No Knight advanced to a medal heat. Each one will have to pare time or climb the rankings to secure a berth into the state open competition, but Tuttle remains optimistic. The Knights surpassed expectations at the qualifying meet. Who’s to say they can’t do it again?
“There are no guarantees, and it’s a small window of opportunity this year because the field is so fast,” said the coach. “Just look at the 50 freestyle. There were 52 kids that qualified for the automatic time, and they make those times to try to aim for 36 kids at the qualifying meet. Usually, they don’t even get 36 to qualify and they have to use the next best kids to fill out the field. It’s a really fast field this year.”
No matter what happens at the finals, Tuttle said that the team has exceeded his wildest expectations.
“It isn’t like we haven’t been a team in the past, but this is the most cohesive group that I’ve been a part of,” he said. “In terms of the number of people that we have performing at a high level, this team has a greater number of kids than even I could have expected. We don’t necessarily have an easy state open bid in there like we had last year with Mike Smigelski, but we’ve got more kids at finals than ever.”
Now comes the fun part…
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