Swimmers off to fast start; Dean, Baribault qualify for states at opening meet

By John Goralski
Sports Writer
Laurel Dean captured two victories and qualified for the postseason in both races. Aly Baribault won twice and qualified in one event even though the meet had already gone to exhibition.
On Wednesday, Sept. 11, the Lady Knight swim team opened their season with an easy 98-77 win in Plainville, but Lady Knight coach Evan Tuttle was even more impressed with the effort.
“Going into the first meet, there are always a lot of question marks,” said the coach. “Wins and losses are just one. It’s about how the kids are going to perform, how our kids are going to hold up in the distance events, and how their endurance is doing this early in the season. Everything that I saw today was positive.”
With his returning swimmers Tuttle was looking for a strong start, and that’s what he got. Dean captured wins in the 200 freestyle (2:08.53) and the 100 freestyle (58.33). Tia Jones raised the bar with a victory in diving (135.2), and Baribault captured a victory in the 500 freestyle (5:56.35) that challenges a state qualifying time with a win in an exhibition race that claimed a state berth in the 100 breaststroke (1:15.39).
But it was the strength throughout his lineup that really impressed the coach.
“We had some strong swims, and it was up and down the roster,” he said. “We had a lot of first and second finishes. Sometimes, we had 1-2-3. Other times, we were 1-2-4. There was only one event where we didn’t take first. To win 11 out of 12 in our first meet is a great start. I can only predict that we’ll improve from here.”
If it’s any indication, the Knights are ahead of expectations. In recent years, Plainville has posed a good measuring stick for the Knights with a competition that was usually decided on the final race. This year, Southington clinched the contest with three races remaining. Until last season, Plainville usually won the deciding race.
“We turned the corner, and we’re starting to take on those teams and beat those teams that we never used to,” said Tuttle. “And we’re getting on top of them early.”
In addition, the Knights showcased a strong group of newcomers.
Melissa Matthews was a double winner, clinching a postseason berth in the 50 freestyle (26.64) at her first varsity meet with another first place finish in the 100 butterfly (1:12). Allie Schroeder captured wins in the 200 IM (2:34.69) and placed second in the 100 backstroke (110.47).
Southington relays captured the fastest time in every relay.
“To pick one person that jumped off the page? I really don’t think I could do it because everybody performed so well today,” said Tuttle. “Now, we continue to improve. I asked them, ‘Are we satisfied?’ The answer is, ‘No.’ We’re not done yet. We’ve just started.”
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@southingtonobserver.com.

By John Goralski Allie Schroeder swims the backstroke leg of the 200 individual medley during a win in Plainville.

By John Goralski
Allie Schroeder swims the backstroke leg of the 200 individual medley during a win in Plainville.

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