By BRIAN JENNINGS
The Blue Knights (5-2) defeated Conard for the first time in 12 years with a 97-86 conference triumph over Conard at the Cornerstone Aquatics Center in West Hartford on Tuesday, Jan. 26.
Southington wasted no time and jumped out in front of the Chieftains, 12-2, with first and second place finishes in the opening 200 medley relay. Brendon Egan, Austin Bull, PJ Ramsey, and Zack Blake anchored the Knights with a first place finish (1:50.64) in the relay, followed by the Evan Bender, John Stevens, Anthony Sagnella, and Domenic Rossi in second.
Although you can only score points from two teams in relays, Southington’s third 200 medley relay team of Justin Sliker, Julie Duszak, Jacob Holbrook, and Andrew Rogalski still managed to finish six hundredths of a second faster than Conard’s best relay in the event. Southington coach Evan Tuttle said it’s not often that you see a one-two finish from a relay.
“I knew that we wanted to start the meet strong,” said Tuttle. “So we went after that medley relay and the kids swam well. Taking first and second really set the pace at the beginning. They swam their times and did what they were capable of.”
From there, Southington never looked back and clinched the meet by the 400 freestyle relay.
Egan and Blake also teamed up with Ben Wakefield and Evan Bender to take first in the 400 freestyle relay (3:39.85). Egan was a double winner in the 200 individual medley (2:14.86) and 500 freestyle (5:22.16). Ramsey (24.14) finished first in the 50 freestyle, Wakefield (54.09) finished first in the 100 freestyle, Blake (1:00.72) finished first in the 100 backstroke, and Bull (1:10.50) finished first in the 100 breaststroke. From the diving board, Chase Galayda plunged into first with his third straight state qualifying score (187.95) on the year.
Tuttle said that his team had a lot of momentum going into the meet from their last two competitions. The Knights had finished their two previous meets against Cheshire and NW Catholic with 20 best times in each, but Tuttle said that if his team posted that same mark against Conard, the meet would be theirs. The Knights exceeded Tuttle’s expectations and finished with a season high of 28 best times.
“Even though one of those had been a loss to Cheshire, we still swam extremely well,” the coach said. “I told them that this was step one in our bid at winning our conference this year. Conard beat us on the last relay last year, and so it was our job to return the favor.”
A few days later on Friday, Southington wrapped up the week with a 92-83 win at East Hartford. The Knights clinched the meet by the 100 backstroke.
The Knights swept the relays with first place finishes from the team of Bender, Bull, Ramsey, and Julian Figueiroa took first in the 200 medley relay (1:52.82), the team of Blake, Nick Kelley, Stevens, and Wakefield in the 200 freestyle relay (1:41.36), and the team of Blake, Steve Sokolowski, Bender, and Egan in the 400 freestyle relay (3:41.65).
Blake was a double winner in the 200 freestyle (1:57.39) and 100 freestyle (52.83). Egan was a double winner for the third straight meet, taking first in the 200 individual medley (2:16.57) and 100 backstroke (57.57). Ramsey was also a double winner in the 50 freestyle (24.26) and 100 fly (59.58).
Wakefield (5:41.61) finished first in the 500 freestyle, and Bull (1:09.20) finished first in the 100 breaststroke.
The Knights will look to carry the momentum from their win over Conard when they return to the Cornerstone Aquatics Center on Tuesday, Feb. 2 to compete in round two of the West Hartford schools, Hall. Following Tuesday’s road meet, the Knights are set to return home to host Berlin on Friday, Feb. 5.
“As long as we stay healthy and continue to work hard in practice, we are in good position to wind down to an excellent postseason,” said Tuttle.
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