By BRIAN JENNINGS
Chase Galayda climbed onto the diving board and strolled to the edge before turning. He raised both arms above his head, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. With a few bounces, he launched himself into a corkscrew twist and plunged gracefully with barely a splash.
“I actually think I did really well,” said the Blue Knight diver. “It definitely was one of my best meets, performance-wise and score-wise. I just felt in the zone.”
Galayda captured the CCC West diving title at Westminster School in Simsbury on Tuesday, Feb. 27 and broke two school records along the way. After six dives, his 276.2 score shattered the school record (258.02) set in 1990. After 11 dives, he smashed his own 11-dive record (353.55) that he set at last year’s Class LL Championship.
Galayda entered the meet as the seventh seed, but his final score of 442.95 came just three points from the conference meet record. Galayda won easily, beating his nearest competitor by almost 43 points.
“I didn’t think I would break the school records, especially by that much,” said Galayda. “I thought I would come close because I’ve been close all year.”
Southington swimming coach Evan Tuttle said that Galayda has had the ability to break both the six and 11-dive school record for a couple of seasons now. It’s just a matter of putting all of the dives together in a single meet, which is what Galayda did on Tuesday night.
“You could clearly see that he was on his game tonight, hitting every dive,” said Tuttle. “After the first couple of dives, I knew that he was in the zone and that he was definitely going to give himself a good chance to break that school record.”
Galayda scored a 54 on his 105C forward two and a half and a 52.65 on his back one somersault two and a half twist (2.7 degree of difficulty).
“It’s hard to find divers that are doing above 2.5, even at state meets. And he nailed that,” said Tuttle. “He’s got a good repertoire of dives. His degree of difficulty is up there, and if he’s on and nailing his dives, watch out.”
Southington diving coach Jan Zagorski said that the two and a half is a new dive for Galayda.
“We’ve been working on him piking out of it, instead of just opening out of it, and that made the difference,” said Zagorski. “He could see the entry and put the entry in.”
Zagorski said that Galayda’s back somersault two and a half twist has been outstanding from the beginning.
“He can just twist,” said Zagorski. “We haven’t seen anyone else throw that dive either.”
Galayda was one of five Blue Knights to compete at the conference diving meet for the second-straight year, as Southington came away with four top 10 finishes out of 17 divers. Five divers are the most Southington has sent to the conference meet during Evan Tuttle’s tenure as head coach. As one of three teams in the state to qualify a full card of divers for last year’s state meet, Southington has done it once again this season.
Tuttle said that Southington’s recent success in the diving department has been a testament to how incredible Zagorski is in the diving core that she’s been able to put together.
“It’s truly impressive how far the diving program has come from barely being able to get one diver on the board, not that many years ago, to where we are now, and that’s all because of Jan,” said Tuttle. “She does an unbelievable job.”
Looking at Galayda’s progress and success in diving over the years, Zagorski said that he has some competition on the team, and it’s not just him being number one. The other divers push him as well.
“They work great as a team, and they work together,” said Zagorski. “When they’re not on the board, they’re having fun in the water, and I think that helps.”
Jadyin Calin (223.9) of Farmington took third, but other Southington divers weren’t too far behind Galayda. Although he was seeded in front of Galayda in second with a score of 241.8 coming in, Emerson Suski didn’t slip too far down the ladder and still managed to grab fourth with a score of 217.2.
“We just have to get his (Suski) confidence up because he belongs up there diving with the best of the best, just as Chase does,” said Tuttle. “If he can be confident right from the first dive, there’s no limit for him either.”
Kian Siadat (143.2) and Ben Smith (140.15) rounded out the top 10 with ninth and 10th-place finishes, and Ben Ragozzine (117.45) placed 14th. Smith is Southington’s new rookie diver.
“He had a great six-dive set,” said Tuttle. “We’re excited to see what he can do in the next couple of years as well.”
Galayda, Suski, Siadat, and Ragozzine will travel to Hamden High School on Tuesday, March 6 for the Class LL Diving Championship. The meet is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m.
For more in depth coverage, see our weekly print edition. To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.