By John Goralski
Evan Tuttle knew that his team’s midseason schedule was like getting hit in the face by a 2×4. He knew that most teams would shrink from the challenge of two West Hartford schools followed by a late night meet in Simsbury.
Winning? A long shot. But when his team failed to even show up against Conard, it didn’t sit well with the Southington swim coach.
When they returned to the same West Hartford pool just a few days later, Southington arrived with a completely different team.
“It was night and day between Conard and Hall. Ultimately, they were both losses but they were completely different looks in those losses,” Tuttle said. “Nobody likes to lose, but there’s a difference between a good loss and a bad one. Conard was a bad loss. Hall was a good one. At the end of the meet, we gave ourselves a chance. There’s never a guarantee that you can come out with a win, but you always want to give yourself a chance.”
On Tuesday, Feb. 11, the Knights hit the water with a mission. Hall, a state powerhouse, still managed to turn to exhibition races down the stretch to claim a 97-89 victory, but Tuttle was satisfied with the effort.
“We didn’t swim our best against Conard, but the kids knew that,” he said. “They wanted to come back with a much stronger performance against Hall, and that’s what we were able to do.”
Joe Taglia was the only one to capture a victory with a state qualifying time in the 100 freestyle (52.95), but a Southington swimmer finished in second place in all but one of the races.
Kolton Jankowski returned to the lineup to score second place finishes in the 200 IM and the 100 butterfly. Mack Golos scored close second place finishes in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle events. Charles Morelli scored second in the 50 freestyle. Southington finished second in every single relay, and set a new standard for personal bests.
“That was the glaring difference in the statistics,” said Tuttle. “Against Conard, we were only able to put up three personal bests. Against Hall, we had 17 personal bests. That was the best we’ve done all season.”
The best, that is, until the following night. For the first time this year, Southington competed in back-to-back meets. Both were on the road against tough competition. The second one turned out to be a win.
On Wednesday night, the Knights shattered their previous mark with 24 personal bests to surge past Simsbury, 94-84. Southington turned to exhibition races with three events remaining.
“The only thing I was concerned about was that it was back-to-back meets without any practice time in between,” said Tuttle. “We didn’t have an opportunity to cool down or warm up for any extended time between meets. Any time you run into that, you could run into cold swimmers, but we were the opposite of that. They were still hot from the day before and rolled on through.”
Southington won every single race before turning to exhibition. All but one swimmer scored at the meet.
Golos was a double winner in the 200 freestyle (2:03.15) and the 500 freestyle (5:41.85). Jankowski scored victories in the 200 IM (2:18.35) and the 100 butterfly (1:01.27).
Taglia snatched the top spot in the 50 freestyle (23.86) and 100 freestyle (52.87), trimming almost a tenth of a second off his qualifying time in the 100 free.
Zack Blake, Matt Duszak, PJ Ramsey, and Charles Morelli teamed up for a win in the 200 medley relay (1:51.83). Jankowski, Morelli, Ramsey, and Taglia partnered to win the 200 freestyle relay (1:39.32).
Nobody else qualified for the state meet, but Tuttle said that there are a number closing in on that goal.
Taglia has already qualified in the 50 free and 100 free. Matt Duszak has an automatic time in the breaststroke. Once the team begins to taper for the postseason, there should be a number of state qualifying times.
“It will be nice in our last home meet or at the CCC Championships to get a few more kids over those critical times,” said the coach. “We’ve got our senior meet on Wednesday against NW Catholic, and that should be a good end to our regular season. We hope that propels us into the postseason.”