By BRIAN JENNINGS
Chase Galayda paused, took a deep breath, bent his knees, and leaped inward into the air with the fear of a natural-born cliff diver. His arms were extended straight out above his head. His trajectory and elevation were a thing of beauty. When he glided straight through the water head first, there was barely a splash.
Galayda’s dive at Plainville High School on Friday, Jan. 8 helped propel the Blue Knights swimming and diving team (2-0) to a 101-71 victory over the Blue Devils. Galayda (217.0) finished first out of six divers, and came very close to breaking the school’s diving record.
“What impresses me overall about this young man is primarily his attitude,” said Southington coach Evan Tuttle. “We were excited about his ability coming in because he has a pretty extensive gymnastics background. And that doesn’t always translate into success for diving, but it certainly is in his case. But, to be coupled with a great work ethic and very confident approach in the board, he doesn’t really seem to be shaken. In diving, you can get in your head very easily when you’re up on that board, depending on what dive you have to throw. But, he’s very confident and relaxed.”
Tuttle said that Galayda has only been diving for five weeks now, but this week he qualified for the state meet at his first competition and beat his score by more than 50 points in the second. Tuttle also said that it won’t be long before Galayda closes in on the school record.
His teammates followed suit in the pool. Brendon Egan qualified for states with a first-place time (58.41) in the 100 backstroke. He was finished first (2:13.62) in the 200 individual medley.
“He’s an irreplaceable asset to the team,” Tuttle about Egan. “We’re very glad to have him. His impact has been felt immediately, not just as a work ethic model in the pool at practice, but also with times and points at meets. He’s another one of those kids where you can put him into any single event and he will excel. It’s a vital asset to have for this program.”
Egan went on to partner with Austin Bull, PJ Ramsey, and Zack Blake to with the 200 medley relay (1:50.0). The team of Anthony Sagnella, Andrew Rogalski, Ben Wakefield, and Evan Bender took first (1:42.77) in the 200 freestyle relay. Ramsey, Wakefield, Egan, and Blake combined for first place (3:44.91) in the 400 freestyle relay.
Bull was a double winner in the 200 freestyle (2:03.64) and 100 breaststroke (1:10.97), Ramsey was also a double winner in the 50 freestyle (24.78) and 100 fly (59.40), and Blake finished first (52.62) in the 100 freestyle.
Tuttle said that it’s a great opportunity for his team to swim against a cross-town school like Plainville, even though the Blue Devils’ numbers are low this year. Coach Chris Zagorski is a good friend of the Southington program, and Plainville hosts Southington’s divers during practice. In addition, it’s a great venue for trimming times because of the pool’s water distribution and lane lines.
“I tell the kids that it’s a fast pool, and that they should take advantage of it. And they laugh at me,” said Tuttle. “You have to go in with the right attitude and go after it because when you’re competing for a place of finish, you’re always competing for your best time and for states. So you have to focus on that when you get into that pool. And they were able to do so today.”
Plainville coach Chris Zagorski’s mother, Jan Zagorski, was standing on the Southington side of the pool coaching with Tuttle. Jan Zagorski is the diving coach for Southington and Berlin High School. The Southington diving team practices at Plainville High School where Plainville’s and Southington’s diving teams practice together.
Earlier in the week on Tuesday, Southington traveled to Platt High School for their first meet of the season, where they defeated the Platt-Maloney co-op team, 96-84.
The team of Bender, Bull, Egan, and Ramsey took first (1:49.98) in the 200 medley relay. The team of Blake, Steve Sokolowski, John Stevens, and Sagnella took first (1:41.92) in the 200 freestyle relay. The team of Blake, Ramsey, Sagnella, and Egan took first (3:40.84) in the 400 freestyle relay.
Sokolowski was a double winner in the 200 (2:07.03) and 100 freestyle (57.55), Blake finished first (2:13.28) in the 200 individual medley, Egan finished first (5:23.36) in the 500 freestyle, Bender finished first (1:03.03) in the 100 backstroke, and Bull finished first (1:10.33) in the 100 breaststroke.
Galayda qualified for states by finishing first with a score of 173.34.
The Knights will look to stay undefeated when they return home to new and tough competition, with home meets against Avon (1-1) on Wednesday, Jan. 13 and Cheshire (1-0) on Friday, Jan. 15.
“You never want to count your chickens before they hatch, as they say, but I’m very confident about this team,” said Tuttle. “I’m confident about where they’re heading, not just this season, but in future seasons as well. It’s a young, talented team with a lot of promise.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.