By BRIAN JENNINGS
A second-place team finish with two individual conference champions really had the Blue Knights pumping their fists after the final race of the conference meet. Southington beat a number of perennial powers to claim the runner up position behind Farmington in a competition that wasn’t decided until the final race.
Blue Knight coach Evan Tuttle said that the second-place finish was a second chance for the Knights to prove themselves against Farmington and Hall, which were their only two losses of the regular season.
“We were able to take down Hall and give Farmington another run for their money, just as we did in the dual meet against them,” said the coach. “We took them [Farmington] to the last relay. It came down to the last relay at conference championships as well.”
Galayda Dives for 2nd
Chase Galayda set the pace for the postseason as the freshman diver beat all but one opponent at the CCC South White Division diving championship at Westminster School in Simsbury on Tuesday, March 1. Galayda finished second out of 10 of the best divers in the conference.
Galayda (201.65) scored 13 points in the competition, edging third place finisher Hunter Boyko (Simsbury) by 0.35 points.
“It was a hard meet,” said Galayda. “I messed up a few times, but it was still a good meet.”
In his first postseason competition, Galayda said that he pulled out all the stops. He added more difficulty to his dives and held his own against seasoned competition. All season, Galayda has been at a disadvantage with no diving competitions at Southington’s home contests. He said that it didn’t stop him from practicing or attempting those complex dives.
“I knew what I was doing because I’ve been working on those dives for a while now,” he said.
Out of his six dives, Galayda said that he was most impressed with his front double pike.
“I got a lot of height and opened at the right time,” said Galayda. “So I went right in.”
The reverse double comes as the hardest dive for Galayda.
“It’s hard to flip forward and backwards at the same time,” he said. “It’s kind of confusing.”
Kian Siadat (131.15) finished eighth overall to earn the Knights five points. Victoria Duszak (127.25) scored four points with a ninth place finish.
Katja Zoner (Farmington) won the CCC West Diving Championship with a score of 207.
Swimmers hold their own
The momentum carried into the following day, as the Knight swimmers clawed their way to second place (295) in the swimming portion of the conference championship. Southington trailed Farmington (310.5) by 15.5 points, but edged Hall (235), Simsbury (170), Conard (143), and NW Catholic (106.5) for second place.
This was the second straight year that Southington finished as runner-ups at the conference championship.
“I knew it was going to be a close meet between the top three teams,” said Tuttle. “We were able to put quite a bit of distance between ourselves and Hall. In a conference championship meet when there’s over 50 points in every single event, that’s a small margin of victory when you just miss out on Farmington by 15 and a half points.”
Brendon Egan earned a gold medal as conference champion in the 100 backstroke (57.83), edging out Hall’s Patrick Keith by less than a second.
“Brendon knows him very well,” the coach said. “He’s been competing against him in club swimming. Brendon really wanted that event and I think he knew he was capable of doing so. He’s a tremendous athlete with a great amount of drive and ability.”
Tuttle talked to his swimmer before the 100 backstroke, which helped Egan strategize for the race.
“I told him that if he’s got one advantage on you, [Keith] got some strong underwaters,” said Tuttle. “So really work those underwaters. And when you come in that last lap, get that head back, put your hips up, crank it out, and finish strong.”
Egan also added a silver medal as the runner-up in the 200 individual medley (2:10.99), missing the state cut by just over a second.
PJ Ramsey also took home a conference crown and qualified for states by capturing first place with a best time in the 100 fly (57.18).
Ramsey also earned another best time fourth in the 50 freestyle, dropping just under two seconds off of his seeded time and missing the state cut by .05 seconds.
Zack Blake produced solid performances by qualifying for states by 0.35 seconds, dropping just under two seconds off of his seeded time as the runner-up in the 200 freestyle (1:53.49). Blake also dropped time in the 100 freestyle (51.67), placing third and missing the state cut by less than a second.
Austin Bull added a silver medal to his collection as runner-up in the 100 breaststroke (1:06.61). Bull improved his seeded time by just under two seconds, but he qualified for the state meet by 0.01 seconds Bull rounded out the top 10 in the 500 freestyle as well, finishing 10th.
Evan Bender grabbed a bronze medal by placing third in the 100 backstroke (1:01.14). Bender also finished seventh in the 200 individual medley.
In the team events, Egan, Ramsey, and Bull teamed up with Steve Sokolowski to take second finishing in the 200 medley relay (1:48.07). Egan and Ramsey earned another runner-up performance by combining with Blake and Ben Wakefield right before the end of the meet in the 400 freestyle relay (3:30.74).
Blake and Wakefield joined John Stevens and Anthony Sagnella earlier in the meet in the 200 freestyle, where they took fourth.
Often times in the relays, even though the top finishing relay can score points, Southington’s B relays were finishing ahead of most other team’s A relays. In just about every single event, the Knights scored as often as possible. And in almost every single event, with the exception of the 50 freestyle, the top three swimmers in each event finished in the top 12, and sometimes even in the top six.
The Knights finished the meet with a season high of 40 individual best times, not including splits in relays. They exceeded their last mark of 31 best times, which included splits from relays.
“It was a really was good display of our depth,” said Tuttle. “Forty individual best times in the meet really show how well the kids did. And that’s why we saw so many kids winning their heats. You saw a team that was swimming and performing exceptionally well. They were dawning that S on their cap. It was, of course, something that made me very proud.”
Other notable performances on the day included a pair of fourth-place finishes by Wakefield (200 free, 500 free); fifth-place finishes by Quintin Kimmel (500 free), Sagnella (100 fly), and Stevens (100 breast); a sixth-place finish by Julie Duszak (100 breast); eighth-place finishes by Sokolowski (200 IM) and Dariusz Zajac (100 fly); a ninth-place finish by Sokolowski (100 free); and a 10th place finish by Kimmel (200 free).
Kimmel dropped five seconds in the 200 freestyle and 11 seconds in the 500 freestyle.
Egan (100 backstroke), Blake (backstroke), and Galayda (diving) qualified for the state meet prior to the conference championships. Ramsey (100 fly) and Bull (100 breaststroke) will be joining them at the Class LL championship.
Class LL Diving will be at Hamden High School on March 9, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Swimming qualifiers will be held at Hamden on Saturday, March 12, at 3:30 p.m. Class LL swimming finals will be at Wesleyan University on March 16 at 1:30 p.m.
“The emphasis is always to enjoy the moment, but to not be satisfied because you’re always going to want more,” said Tuttle. “The season is far from over for those moving on into states.”