By BRIAN JENNINGS
It was pretty clear that the Lady Knight swimming and diving team was coming into the 2016 campaign with a strong combination of experienced swimmers and depth up and down the lineup, but qualifying more than one swimmer in multiple events for the Class LL meet was something Southington coach Evan Tuttle said he didn’t expect.
At the same time, it didn’t surprise him.
“They’re picking up right where they left off last year,” the coach said. “I know that they worked hard in the offseason and did a great job during the first few weeks of training and conditioning. But that’s where we started in the first meet, and we’re only going to get better from there.”
Southington kicked off their season with a 96-82 victory over EO Smith at home on Wednesday, Sept. 14, qualifying three swimmers in four different events for the state meet. The Knights clinched the win with two events remaining.
“There’s always a little uncertainty on how the girls will perform going into the first meet,” said Tuttle. “If the work we’ve been putting into the last few weeks is going to shine through, it absolutely did today. I know that there may have been some nerves out there, but we didn’t see that in the pool.”
The Knights posted a number of personal bests to go along with qualifications for the state meet, but Tuttle said that it was the sportsmanship and support each teammate showed for one another that helped overcome any nerves or anxiety.
“We were energized from beginning to end,” the coach said. “The girls were up cheering each other on. This is a good president of things to come. We just have to try to continue that momentum for the remainder of the season.”
Olivia Fournier qualified for the state meet with second-place finishes in the 50 freestyle (24.93) and 100 freestyle (55.31). Fournier also broke her own school record (25.14) in the 50 freestyle, which she set when she was a freshman.
Kerry Buchanan qualified with her victory in the 500 freestyle (5:51.02) and took first in the 200 freestyle. Patrycja Zajac qualified for the postseason with a second-place finish in the 100 breaststroke (1:17.88).
Southington swept the top three places in the 200 freestyle and the 500 freestyle. Jess Piotrowski earned wins in the 200 individual medley and 100 fly, and Evelyn Holbrook scored a victory in the 100 backstroke. Southington swept first place in the relays.
Southington will look to qualify more athletes for the state meet this week when they host Bristol Eastern on Friday, Sept. 23.
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