By John Goralski
On Friday, Feb. 28, Coach Evan Tuttle sat back contentedly as Hallie Altweis hit the water on her final diving attempt for the CCC West conference championships. Her score (143.1) still has a way to go to meet the automatic qualifying mark, but Altweis is only a freshman.
Tuttle was contented because his freshman’s dive capped a two-day run for his team that saw Southington swimmers and divers break 28 personal bests. Two more athletes claimed postseason berths with automatic times, and a host of others have put themselves in a good position to make the final cut.
Southington finished their conference meet entrenched in third place, sandwiched behind Conard and Hall but before Farmington. It was the perfect ending to a satisfying regular season.
“The conference that we’re in is a relatively strong one, but we knew that if we could finish well we’d put ourselves in a good position for states,” said the coach. “It really is a testament to the hard work that these kids have put in. Those three teams were our toughest challenges in the regular season, but we were right up there with them in the conference meet.”
The Knights secured 18 top 10 finishes at the meet, and jockeyed as high as second place with 239 points at the end of the first day of competition.
Matt Duszak set the pace with a second place finish in the breastroke (1:08.08) and an eighth place finish in the 200 IM (2:25.14). Mack Golos placed third in the 200 freestyle (1:59.6) and fourth in the 500 freestyle (5:34.81). Nick Brazil finished 3rd overall in the 100 breastroke (1:09.15) in a time that came within half second of an automatic qualifying time.
“That’s exactly how you want to finish the regular season,” said Tuttle. “We’ve got a few that are automatic, but we’ve got quite a few that are maybes for the Class LL championships.”
Kolton Jankowski joined the list of postseason qualifiers with his third place finish in the 100 butterfly (59.91). PJ Ramsey secured a state bid with his fourth place finish in the butterfly (1:00.03).
“Those were our two additional automatic cuts, but we had some kids that dropped some more time to give themselves a real opportunity in a few events,” said Tuttle. “Mack Golos, PJ, and Kevin Corcoran all dropped time in the 200 free to give themselves a chance. Mack and Kevin dropped times to get into a good position in the 500. Luke Davis dropped 3 seconds for outside shot at the 100 back, and Zack Blake is only a half second off.”
Tuttle expects others to join the list when psych sheets are released on March 11. Southington could continue their trend of postseason qualifiers when Southington takes to the waters for the Class LL qualifying meet on March 11 at Hamden High School.
“The good thing about having our conference championships two weeks out is that it gives us two more weeks of unbroken practices to taper down and put ourselves in the best position possible for qualifiers,” said the coach.
The conference performance came on the heels of a make-up meet against NW Catholic on Monday, Feb. 24 which saw yet another postseason qualifier. Charles Morelli finished the 50 freestyle in 23.86 seconds to claim an automatic time for the postseason during an 86-67 Southington win.
“That kid has been working his tail off,” said Tuttle. “He also put in a best time in the 100 fly, but I’m not surprised. He stays after practice for extra time. He’s doing whatever he needs to do to improve. The 50 is one of the most difficult races to qualify for, and it’s one of the fastest cut times that we’ve had in years. He did a tremendous job.”
The Knights are already beginning to taper for the state meet. They have already thinned their numbers in the pool as they prepare to take on the state’s best. Win, lose, or draw, Tuttle credits his seniors for another successful season.
“They played a major role in our development. Some of these 11 kids have swam for four years, three, or two,” he said. “One just swam in his senior year, but they’ve all done their part in building this program. They are truly great kids, regardless of talent or ability. If you have the right mindset and attitude, if you’re the kind of kid that can lead or motivate others, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”