By John Goralski
Mack Golos was visibly upset when he emerged from the Hamden pool at the end of his 200m freestyle heat at the Class LL qualifying meet on Saturday, March 15. He had basically tied his qualifying time, but he wasn’t moving on to the finals.
For most athletes that would be a disappointing day—especially since Golos advanced to the finals last winter—but Southington’s distance ace was swimming with a bad strain in one ankle. Not only had he qualified with the injury, Golos trained all week with an injured foot. Still, Blue Knight coach Evan Tuttle had trouble consoling him.
“Even with his injury, he was able to qualify for the postseason in the toughest class in the state on one of the toughest years, and I had to remind him of that,” said the coach. “You could probably manage to stick it out in a sprint with just two laps or four laps, but when you’ve got to come off of eight walls in the 200 freestyle that’s a lot of extra strain on the body. He made it to the postseason in one of the toughest divisions, and he did it all on one leg.”
Golos was one of the lucky ones. When pairing were announce for this year’s Class LL qualifying meet, there were a number of other Blue Knight swimmers that failed to make the mark. Southington managed to qualify nine athletes in seven different events, but Tuttle said that the team would have sent many more in any other season.
“It was a really fast year for Class LL, so we had some kids that were on the bubble that didn’t make it in that would have made it in last year or in other classes than LL,” he said. “We still had a good showing and performed very well.”
The Class LL qualifying meet is the first stage of the progressive postseason. The top 24 in each event advance to the final meet for a chance to be among the top 24 Connecticut swimmers at the state open competition. The Knights dropped times in all but one race to advance four of their six individuals and all three relays into the final meet at Wesleyan University in Middletown on Wednesday, March 19.
Joe Taglia was the big winner, dropping 1.5 seconds in the 100 freestyle (51.36) and another couple of tenths in the 50 freestyle (23.55) to qualify in both events. Charles Morelli advanced to the finals in the 50 freestyle (23.58), and Matt Duszak reached the finals in the 100 breaststroke (1:05.57).
In addition, the Knights advanced in all three relays. Zack Blake, Duszak, Morelli, and Nick Brazil trimmed two seconds off their seed time in the 200 medley relay (1:47.07). Morelli, Kolton Jankowski, Peter Masters, and Taglia trimmed two seconds off their fastest time to advance in the 200 freestyle relay (1:35.32). Morelli, PJ Ramsey, Blake, and Jankowski shaved more than 11 seconds off their previous best to advance in the 400 freestyle relay (3:33.04).
With nobody qualifying for the fastest heat Southington has no chance for a Class LL medal, but all three relays positioned themselves in the second heat of their events. That puts them all in a great position to advance to the state open.
“That puts us in a good position, if we drop a few more seconds, to get into one of those last spots for the state open at Yale,” said Tuttle. “If you’re outside one of those top two heats, you essentially have to pace yourself. Getting into that second heat surrounds us by teams that are moving as fast or faster than you are, and that gives us the extra motivation for out kids to drop a few more seconds.”
On Wednesday, they’ll face their final test. Can the Knights beat the odds again? Can they battle back into contention for a state open berth? Those are the big questions.
“I want to see a couple more seconds drop in each of our relays. That 400 free relay will probably have to drop another 10 seconds to get in, but that’s possible considering they’ve already dropped 11 seconds,” said Tuttle. “That’s what we want to do. We want to continue to improve, drop time, and give ourselves a chance.”
The state open championship is scheduled for Saturday, March 22 at Kiputh Pool on the Yale University campus in New Haven. The competition is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. Starting times and positions can be found at www.ciacsports.com.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobserver.com.