By BRIAN JENNINGS
The Blue Knights (6-4) had an opportunity to add a conference championship to their trophy case over the past week, but just came up short when they split the week with a road win to Simsbury and home loss to Farmington. Coach Evan Tuttle said that it was bittersweet, but credited his team for working hard toward the goal.
“We have a very bright future, in terms of not just looking at the end of the season, but looking ahead to future seasons as well,” said Tuttle. “We had an opportunity to put 2016 up on the banner in the gym, battling both Hall and Farmington to the very end. They were just able to edge us out.”
Knights sink Simsbury
The Knights traveled to the Westminster School in Simsbury on Tuesday, Feb. 9 where they found their sixth win of the season in a seven-point victory, 92-85, over the Trojans.
Zack Blake was a double winner on the day, qualifying for the Class LL state meet in the 100 backstroke (59.14) by just under a second and just missing the state mark in the 50 freestyle (23.72) by 0.12 seconds. P.J. Ramsey also found himself finishing right on the cusp, taking first in the 100 fly (58.34) and missing the state cut by a fraction of a second.
Brendon Egan finished first in the 200 freestyle (1:58.50). Evan Bender finished first in the 200 individual medley (2:16.22). From the board, Chase Galayda dove into first in diving (192.95).
Blake, Austin Bull, Ramsey, and Nick Kelley took first in the 200 medley relay (1:49.63). Blake and Ramsey later teamed up with Egan and Ben Wakefield to take first in the 400 freestyle relay (3:40.06).
Southington swimmers scrambled for 10 best times, but the Knights suffered their fourth loss of the season at home on Friday, Feb. 12 to Farmington, 91-79. The loss ended a chance for the Knights to fight for the White Division title in the CCC South.
“When the kids are absolutely pouring everything they’ve got into the meet, you hope that the numbers line up at the end. It just wasn’t the case today,” the coach said. “Farmington was able to edge us in an extremely competitive, very close meet.”
The Knights took an 8-6 lead early after Egan, Bull, Ramsey, and Blake took first in the 200 medley relay (1:47.13). The Indians tied the contest at 15-15 with first and fourth-place finishes in the 200 freestyle. The Indians built a 10-point lead, 44-34, after the 100 fly, but the Knights cut the lead to six, 50-44, with the help of a first-place finish by Blake in the 100 freestyle (55.09), with Wakefield finishing right behind in second.
From there, the Indians blew the meet open with first and second place-finishes in the 200 freestyle relay, finishing the meet with eight first-place finishes.
Before coming into the meet, Tuttle said that he looked over the numbers and saw that the difference between both teams was a matter of one and a half seconds. And the preview of the meet became true to form from paper to the water, the majority of the races were decided by just that.
“If you look at the competitive finishes and the touches where we lost a couple of those close ones, it was a second and a half,” said Tuttle. Every single race was an absolute battle. And it wasn’t just between two lanes. It was between multiple lanes. It was an evenly-matched, well-fought meet.”
Of note from the meet, Egan improved his seeded time in the state meet with a first-place finish in the 100 backstroke (59.94).
Tuttle went on to say that this year’s Farmington team is a much-improved Farmington team from a year ago, as the Indians brought back three seniors to their squad, who have been swimming club in the offseason. The order of finishes in the conference last year was Hall, Conard, Southington, and Farmington. This year it’s Farmington, Hall, and Southington.
“They have helped them tremendously,” the coach said. “They had a huge rebound in a year and had several kids come to the team that were swimming club. That was a huge turnaround for them.”
The Knights will wrap up their regular season with a final meet at home against Northwest Catholic on Wednesday, Feb. 17. As the Knights prepare for the conference meet, Tuttle said that he believes the team is in good shape.
“If you had showed me the times where we’re sitting at now up and down the lineup from the most veteran swimmer to our newest swimmer, I would think that we have already shaved down, tapered, and the season was over,” said Tuttle. “We’re in a good spot, position-wise, in terms of times and where we are heading into our senior meet next Wednesday and the week after heading into championships.”