By BRIAN JENNINGS
HAMDEN—The Southington Blue Knights qualified nine swimmers and dropped times across the board to achieve personal best times at the Class LL State Qualifiers on Saturday, Mar. 14 at Hamden High School.
The Knights walked into the meet ranked 17th overall (1:50.81) out of 22 schools with a high number of qualifiers, having at least one swimmer in every event, except for the 100 freestyle and diving.
Southington had swimmers seeded in the middle of the pack and toward the bottom of the list in both relays and individual events, Southington coach Evan Tuttle said he thought his guys exceeded expectations and did excellent.
“We filled a lot of the first and second heats,” said Tuttle. “If you’re in the first and second heats, you’re sort of on the outside looking in when it comes to advancing to finals. So we had to perform extremely well and many were able to.”
Every single Southington swimmer in the pool, in individual events and relays, was able to set personal best times.
All of the relay teams for Knights qualified for the Class LL Finals on Tuesday evening, Mar. 17 at Wesleyan University in Middletown.
The team of Zack Blake, Matt Duszak, P.J. Ramsey, and Nick Brazil (1:46.42) dropped four seconds in the 200 medley relay, finishing 15th overall.
The 200 freestyle relay team of John Stevens, Ben Wakefield, Mack Golos, and Brazil (1:36.76) dropped four seconds and finished 13th overall.
The team of Kevin Corcoran, Wakefield, Evan Bender, and Golos (3:40.19) dropped four seconds and finished 19th overall in the 400 freestyle relay.
Corcoran dropped a second and a half in the 200 freestyle (1:57.08), finishing 32nd overall.
Corcoran also finished 30th overall in the 500 freestyle (5:19.76). Golos (5:22.88) dropped six seconds in the same event, finishing 34th overall moments after.
Corcoran had one of the more courageous swims of the day, but it wasn’t in terms of time he turned in.
“He finished right around his qualifying time, but he lost his goggles,” the coach said. “I mean he swam 20 laps with no goggles. I know he was a little frustrated. He sets the bar really high for himself, and he wants to get back to finals, but I told him that losing your goggles right off of the block is outside of your control and is not your fault. That kid fought for 20 laps and still performed really well.”
Bender dropped two seconds in the 200 individual medley (2:17.47), finishing 35th overall. He also dropped a second in the 100 backstroke (1:01.88) and finished 30th overall.
Duszak dropped two seconds (1:06.80) in the 100 breaststroke and finished 25th overall. Stevens (1:07.30) dropped two seconds in the same event and followed right behind, finishing 26th overall.
Blake dropped six seconds in the 200 individual medley (2:10.69), finishing 26th overall. He also dropped two seconds in the 100 backstroke (59.16), finishing 21st and advanced to the Finals in both events.
Brazil (1:05.11) dropped a second in the 100 breaststroke, finishing 17th overall and also advancing to Finals.
Ramsey dropped a fraction of a second from a 23-high to a 23-low in the 50 freestyle (23.14), finishing 24th overall. In the 100 fly (55.38), he dropped three seconds and finished 13th overall, having the highest seed for the Knights and advancing to Finals in both events.
“Going into the meet, P.J. wasn’t necessarily in the position to qualify for Finals,” Tuttle said. “So he had to jump over about 10 people, in order to get there. He’s been a solid performer for us all year and last year as a freshman. So he’s continued his steady advance in progression. He proved his ability at our qualifying meet in the fastest class in the state, which is LL’s.”
The Knights will fight to drop more times in the individual events and relays at the Class LL Finals, in order to move on to the State Opens this weekend.
“I’m looking forward to every single moment of it,” the Knights coach said. “It’s always an exciting meet over there at Wesleyan. It’s a great pool and facility. LL’s is tough to compare to other classes. It’s so big and so fast. I told the kids before the qualifying meet that even just qualifying for state’s in the LL class is an accomplishment in itself. To take it one step farther and get to Finals is that much more special.”
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.