By John Goralski
There isn’t much that can wipe the smile off Evan Tuttle’s face these days. His Lady Knight swimmers have plastered a grin on the varsity coach, and the postseason has only just begun.
On Saturday, Nov. 9, the Lady Knights dove into the postseason with entrants in every race at the Class LL qualifying meet in East Hartford. Two Lady Knights advanced to the finals in four events. A number of others advanced in multiple events.
Never has a pool been more filled with Lady Knights, and that’s the reason for Tuttle’s postseason smile.
“To have somebody in every event up and down the board shows that we don’t have just one or two outstanding performers on the team,” said the coach. “We have somebody that can go the distance in every event. This is the first time since I’ve been in the ranks that we’ve put somebody into the qualifying meet in ever event. I can’t tell you how long it’s been before that. It feels good. It shows the depth of talent on this team.”
If that was all that happened, Tuttle would have been proud, but the Lady Knights advanced 10 individuals to the final meet in eight different events. Marisa Matthews led the way, advancing to the Class LL finals in four events with a chance for a medal in three events. Laurel Dean and Aly Baribault advanced in four races apiece, and Southington advanced three swimmers to the finals in the 100 breaststroke.
“That’s the first time that we’ve been able to get three girls into the finals in one event,” said Tuttle. “It was a great day. We didn’t perform as well as we hoped last year, so it’s great to get back to the Class LL qualifiers and perform well. We advanced eight of 12 events to the finals, and that’s something that we haven’t been able to do in a long time.”
The event welcomed the top 36 swimmers in each event, and their times determine their seeding at the final event. The top 24 advance in every event. The top eight will compete for medals, but everyone at the finals will have a chance to secure a berth at the upcoming state open. That’s good news for the Lady Knights.
“It really was a tremendous showing, and it’s great to see those girls get rewarded for all their hard work,” said Tuttle. “I expect to continue to drop time, continue to jump over some of our competitors, and get into the opens.”
Matthews powered the Knights at the qualifying meet. She trimmed more than one second off her seed time to score the fifth seed in the 50 freestyle (25.45). She trimmed almost 1.5 seconds off her time in the 100 breaststroke (1:10.03) to earn the fourth seed. Matthews led off the 200 freestyle relay (1:48.83) as they earned the 11th seed at the finals, and she anchored the 400 freestyle relay (3:57.9) as they clawed their way into the fastest heat.
“She had the best day by far for us, and she really performed well in a pressure situation,” said Tuttle. “But it doesn’t surprise me that she performed so well because she worked so hard at this. It would have surprised me if she didn’t do this well.”
Baribault advanced in the 100 breaststroke (1:11.44), the 500 freestyle (5:40.66), and two relays. Dean didn’t qualify for the fastest heat in either of her individual races, but she advanced to the finals in four events. She trimmed almost a full second off her time in the 100 breaststroke (1:10.94) and held her own in the 100 freestyle (56.73) and both times advanced her just outside the fastest heats.
“When you have a bad day but you’re still able to get back to the finals that says something,” said Tuttle. “It shows her strength and determination. She’s still in a situation where she can perform well, and I still think that she can get into the state open.”
Southington advanced in all three relays. Dean, Matthews, and Baribault partnered with Bailey Potter to advance to the fastest heat in the 400 free relay. Dean, Matthews, and Baribault teamed with Bethany Greenlaw to advance in the 200 free relay. Allie Schroeder, Bethany Greenlaw, Sam Sagnella, and Kristen Loose advanced as members of the 200 medley relay (2:07.37).
“We had a couple of girls that weren’t able to hit automatic times to get into the meet, but they were able to get into the top 36,” said Tuttle. “We were able to get some of them into finals, and that makes it even more special. We had Allie Schroeder advance in the backstroke (1:07.47), and she had to jump a few people to get into the top 24. Aly was able to do that in the 500m and we had three breaststrokers make it into the finals.”
On Tuesday, the girls competed at Southern Connecticut State University after press time with a chance to advance to the state open at Yale on Saturday, Nov. 16. Results are posted on our website.
“Two years ago when we swam at Southern, the girls swam great. They set the 200 freestyle record there, so we can’t wait to get into that pool and try to get a repeat.”