Swimmers battle for top spot in the conference

Ben Wakefield swims the 500 freestyle during a win over Bristol on Friday. Southington swept both opponents last week to climb into the top spot in the conference standings. (Photo by Kelly Del Debbio)

By BRIAN JENNINGS

STAFF WRITER

All the Blue Knight swimming and diving team had to do was finish in third or better in the 400 freestyle relay, but you couldn’t tell by their reaction. Teammates reacted like any other win when Tyler Heidgerd touched the wall to cap the meet with a win in the relay.

The team huddled like normal. They started their usual chant, and they shook hands.

It wasn’t until Blue Knight coach Evan Tuttle approached the press with his hands shaking and a tremble in his voice that there was any sign that this wasn’t just another regular season win.

On Wednesday, Southington took down Hall, 94-76, for the first time in 15 years, pushing the Knights into the top spot in the conference standings.

“We’re finally coming to realize that we are the team to beat,” said Tuttle. “We’re really starting to embrace that role. We’ve been talking over the last few days that it’s really time for our streak to begin.”

Southington’s 7-0 overall record after the meet was the best start to the regular season the Knights have had under Tuttle. The Knights came away with 18 best times in the meet.

“Today was all about whoever wanted it more,” said Tuttle. “There is no doubt in my mind and there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that was here up in the stands or on the pool deck that we wanted it more.”

The Warriors jumped out to an early, 8-6 advantage with a first-place finish in the 200 medley relay, but the Knights captured the lead, 17-13, with a first, third, and fourth-place finish in the 200 freestyle. Southington never trailed again.

Hall managed to tie the score, 39-39, after the 100 butterfly, but a 1-2-3 sweep by Tyler Heidgerd (53.0), Zack Blake, and Ben Wakefield in the 100 freestyle gave the Knights a 10-point advantage. Southington extended its lead to 16 with first, third, and fourth-place finishes in the 500 freestyle.

Most notable performances in the meet were fourth-place finishes by Quintin Kimmel in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle. Kimmel beat out Hall’s fifth-place finishers by 45 hundredths of a second in the 200 freestyle and 24 hundredths of a second in the 500 freestyle.

“He’s not finishing in first, but he’s making a huge difference, not just in terms of points,” said Tuttle. “Every time he comes from behind and finishes strong into the wall, out-touching that kid next to him, it lights up this team and this pool deck.”

Tuttle said that without those key finishes, the outcome of the meet could have been different.

“You can see that excitement and feel that energy,” the coach said. “Those are the intangibles that are going to carry a team to a win in a tough meet like today.”

The Knights held an 84-72 lead heading into the final event, but clinched the meet with first and third-place finishes in the 400 freestyle relay.

“I mapped this meet out 100 different ways,” said Tuttle. “Every single time it came down to the last relay and either two points or a tie, based on times.”

The following finished first in the meet: Blake in the 200 freestyle (1:58.75); Melanson in the 200 individual medley (2:11.39) and 500 freestyle (5:18.63); Heidgerd in the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke (58.84); and Blake, Brendon Egan, PJ Ramsey, and Heidgerd in the 400 freestyle relay (3:38.75).

Heidgerd improved his state-qualifying time in the 100 backstroke.

Win in Bristol

FEB. 3—A couple days later, the Knights remained undefeated by earning their eighth win on the year with a 96-80 victory over Bristol Co-op at the Dennis Malone Aquatics Center.

The following finished first: Brendon Egan in the 200 freestyle (1:54.26) and 500 freestyle (5:20.89); PJ Ramsey in the 50 freestyle (24.13); Zack Blake in the 100 freestyle (53.06); Evan Bender in the 100 backstroke (59.85), Joe Savarese in the 100 breaststroke (1:11.32); EJ Suski in diving (207.95); Bender, Blake, Ramsey, and Nick Kelley in the 200 medley relay (1:50.71); Tyler Heidgerd, Brian Egan, Derek Melanson, and Ramsey in the 200 freestyle relay (1:38.84); and Blake, Brian Egan, Heidgerd, and Brendon Egan in the 400 freestyle relay (3:39.17).

Bender qualified for the Class LL meet in the 100 backstroke. Suski improved his state mark in diving.

The Knights will look to remain undefeated this week when they host Simsbury for senior night on Wednesday, Feb. 8.

For a full box score, click here: http://southingtonobserver.com/2017/02/07/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-feb-10-edition/

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