By BRIAN JENNINGS
Southington’s corner of the pool was the loudest, as swimmers cheered, laughed, and greeted teams with high fives as they climbed from the water. With each personal best it got louder. After personal records, it was deafening.
Coach Evan Tuttle said that his Knights pride themselves on doing those things in your control. Enthusiasm is one of those things.
“The energy in this area was through the roof,” said Southington coach Evan Tuttle. “Being engaged in the meet, cheering for your teammates, and getting loud is a choice you make. You either choose to be invested in your team and yourself or you choose not to, and every single member of this team chooses to be invested.”
The Blue Knights placed first in the CCC West Championship for the second-straight year after blowing the competition out of the water with over 50 best times and a score of 304 at the swimming portion of the meet, which was held at the Cornerstone Aquatics Center in West Hartford on Wednesday, Feb. 28.
“Every single one of them had a goal set in mind,” said Tuttle. “We wanted to come in here, finish first in the meet, and avenge our two conference losses on the year.”
The next closest team, Conard (247), was 57 points away, followed by Hall (220.5), Farmington (175), Simsbury (173.5), and NW Catholic (142). Southington edged out Conard at last year’s conference meet, 287-205, but this year’s mark of 304 was the highest the Knights ever recorded at the conference meet with Southington coach Evan Tuttle at the helm.
“It’s a different kind of meet,” said Tuttle. “When you set goals for yourself, are motivated, and have the mental toughness to go along with it, that is the recipe for our success today.”
The following were conference champions: Tyler Heidgerd in the 200 freestyle (1:49.07) and 100 backstroke (54.54); Brendon Egan in the 100 fly (55.25); and Derek Melanson, Brendon Egan, Evan Bender, and Alex Kuhr in the 200 medley relay (1:45.84).
Tuttle said that Heidgerd went out fast in the 200 freestyle, which has been his game plan essentially all season. The backstroke was a no doubter. From beginning to end, Heidgerd’s lead grew every yard of that race and dropped nearly three seconds from his seeded time (57.33).
Aside from his work ethic and drive in the pool in practice every day, Heidgerd is an intense competitor, according to Tuttle. He has more grit and determination than most when he’s on the block preparing for a swim.
“He steps on that block and tells himself that there is no way I am going to lose this race, and that’s been translating all season,” said Tuttle. “If he can maintain those intangibles and continue to drive and pursue that excellence every single day, there’s no stopping him.”
Other notable performances on the day included the following medalists: Melanson in the 200 individual medley (2nd) and 500 freestyle (2nd); Kuhr in the 50 freestyle (2nd) and 100 freestyle (4th); Brendon Egan in the 100 breaststroke (2nd); Bender in the 100 backstroke (2nd); Brendon Egan, Ben Wakefield, Quintin Kimmel, and Kuhr in the 200 freestyle relay (2nd); Bender, Kimmel, Melanson, and Heidgerd in the 400 freestyle relay (2nd); Kimmel in the 200 freestyle (5th) and 500 freestyle (6th); and Brian Egan in the 100 backstroke (5th) and 50 freestyle (6th).
Tuttle said that Kuhr dropping a second and a half off of his seeded time (24.36) with a 22.86 in the 50 freestyle is unheard of, which is the fastest flat start 50 split the Knights have had since Michael Smigelski. Kuhr has only been swimming competitively for two years after joining the team as a junior last season.
“Kuhr’s a competitor and is not timid when he gets up there,” said Tuttle. “He’s going to put everything into the pool that he has to offer. The results from his hard work all through the season came to fruition today.”
The following qualified for the Class LL meet: Kuhr in the 50 freestyle, Bender in the 100 backstroke, and Brendon Egan in the 100 breaststroke.
The following improved their state times: Heidgerd in the 200 freestyle and 100 backstroke, Melanson in the 200 individual medley (2:06.9) and 500 freestyle (5:05.82), and Brendon Egan in the 100 fly.
Next up for the Knights is the Class LL Qualifier at East Hartford High School on Saturday, March 10 at 6 p.m. and the Class LL Championship at Wesleyan University in Middletown on Wednesday, March 14 at 1:30 p.m. Greenwich is the defending champion.
After the team’s performance at the conference meet, Tuttle said that he feels strong and confident about heading into the state meet.
“We’ve got a glimpse into what these kids are capable of, and we’ve still got another week to prepare,” said Tuttle. “If we can bring the same energy and perform like we did today, a top ten finish I think is well within our sightline.”
For more in depth coverage, see our weekly print edition. To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.