By John Goralski
Joe Taglia trimmed more than a tenth of a second off his qualifying time in the 400 freestyle relay, and Adam Sokolowski beat his time by almost a second and a half on the very next leg. Kolton Jankowski trimmed nearly five seconds in the third leg, and Bryan Adie beat his previous time by more than a second.
On Tuesday, March 12, the Blue Knight swim team battled the state’s elite in nine events at the Class LL finals. For the first time in three years nobody advanced to the state open, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort. Just a few days after setting 12 personal bests at the state qualifying meet, Southington raised the bar in six of their nine races at the finals.
Taglia, Sokolowski, Jankowski, and Adie trimmed their previous effort by more than seven seconds in the final race of the day, and that was the perfect ending for Southington’s winter sports season.
“Getting to opens for the third straight year would have been an extra reward, but these kids don’t need that to validate the work that they put in this year,” said Tuttle. “They know how hard they worked, and it showed.”
Adie was the champion for the day. After setting four personal bests at the qualifying meet, Adie repeated the performance at the finals. All three of his relays trimmed times from the qualifying meet, and his performance in the 50 freestyle (22.87) came within three tenths of a second from the state open meet.
“It was great to see the kids perform as well as they did, and I hope that they’re as pleased with their performances as I am,” said Tuttle. “That’s another indicator for the dedication that these kids have to the sport and their desire to improve and strive for greater things. Another trip to opens would have been an added bonus, but it doesn’t take away or deplete our season in any way.”
How could it take away from the season’s efforts? Right from the start, Southington swimmers went down swinging. Right from the start, the Knights shattered previous times.
Ed Klein, Matt Duszak, Vladislav Kiveliyk and Adie eclipsed their previous best in the 200 medley relay by almost three seconds, and their time (1:44.17) came within six hundredths of a second from qualifying for the state opens. Taglia, Jankowski, Kiveliyk, and Adie teamed up to trim almost a second and a half from their previous best in the 200 freestyle (1:32.82).
None of the relays advanced, but all three finished in the middle of the pack at the Class LL competition. Tuttle said that it showed the great strides that Southington has made in recent years.
“I think what’s most impressive about this year is the amount of kids that we have performing at such a high level,” he said. “Last year and the year before, we were only able to send two relays to opens while our third relay was a long-shot. We essentially had to sacrifice a relay in order to be competitive in two. This year, we were able to go for all three because we have that depth of talent that was lacking in previous years.”
Southington advanced more athletes into the finals than they have in more than a decade, and the relays weren’t the only ones to shave times from their scores. Kiveliyk trimmed 0.6 seconds off his time in the 100 butterfly (56.14). Klein trimmed more than a second and a half off his previous best in the 100 backstroke (1.52).
With four underclassmen in the lineup, Tuttle said that this was just a sign of things to come. Greenwich (922) beat Fairfield Prep (725) to capture the team title. Staples (387), Amity (377.5), and Ridgefield (302) battled at the next level, and Southington (119) held its own against the rest of the field. The Knights finished 15th overall but were within striking distance of the top eight.
“It’s a continuation of our last few years, and hopefully it will continue into the next few years and into the future,” said Tuttle. “It’s a tradition that we’ve hopefully established and we’ll watch it continue for the years to come. We had some outstanding swimmers and some kids that developed rapidly in our program.”
The meet marked the end of the winter campaign. Now, the Knights can turn their attention to spring and off-season workouts. Can next year’s team continue the winning trend? Tuttle can’t wait to find out.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobserver.com.