By BRIAN JENNINGS
On Saturday, March 10, the Blue Knights advanced swimmers to the Class LL finals at a rate never seen before. Southington sent eight swimmers to the Class LL qualifying meet, and they competed 18 times as individuals or relay teams over 10 different events.
All but three performances finished in the top 24, the cutoff for the championship meet on Wednesday. That’s the most postseason success that the Knights have experience under Coach Evan Tuttle.
“It was important that we kept focused and continued to work hard in practice so that we could make the trials meet even better than the conference championship, and we have,” said Tuttle. “We have that same that game plan going into finals on Wednesday.”
The following advanced to the finals: Tyler Heidgerd in the 100 backstroke (6th, 54.64) and 200 freestyle (14th, 1:49.57); Brian Egan, Brendon Egan, Quintin Kimmel, and Alex Kuhr in the 200 freestyle relay (8th, 1:33.15); Derek Melanson, Brendon Egan, Evan Bender, and Kuhr in the 200 medley relay (9th, 1:44.29); Brian Egan, Melanson, Kimmel, and Heidgerd in the 400 freestyle relay (10th, 3:30.11); Melanson in the 500 freestyle (16th, 5:03.52) and 100 backstroke (20th, 58.05); Brendon Egan in the 100 breaststroke (16th, 1:03.01) and 100 fly (23rd, 55.27); Kuhr in the 50 freestyle (16th, 23.22); Bender in the 100 freestyle (22nd, 52.05) and 100 backstroke (22nd, 58.77); Brian Egan in the 50 freestyle (22nd, 23.65); and Kimmel in the 500 freestyle (23rd, 5:10.48).
Jackson Malsheske qualified as an alternate in the 500 freestyle (26th, 5:13.51). Kimmel dropped the most time, shading off over five seconds from his seeded time (5:15.63).
“He (Kimmel) dropped 11 seconds in the conference championship meet to get himself into trials,” said Tuttle. “Then to come back and drop another five seconds at trials to advance himself to finals is really incredible.”
Southington will travel to Wesleyan University in Middletown on Wednesday, March 14 to compete in the Class LL Swimming Championship. Warm-up is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. with competition slated to begin at 1:30 p.m.
With the numbers they have in the relays and individual events, Tuttle said that they certainly have a shot to finish in the top 10.
“It’s not going to be easy because the depth of talent that’s in Class LL is just as good as it is every year,” said Tuttle. “But we have some kids that competed at trials that jumped over a dozen kids to get into Class LL finals, and our divers already got us off to a good start.”
The success wasn’t just limited to the swimmers. Earlier in the week, Chase Galayda, Emerson Suski, Kian Siadat, and Ben Ragozzine represented Southington at the Class LL Diving Championship on Tuesday, held at Hamden High School. It was the second-straight year the Blue Knights qualified a full card of four divers for the state meet.
Galayda, Suski, and Siadat advanced to the finals, where Galayda finished eighth out of 28 divers with a score of 409.40, Suski finished 14th with a score of 316.60, and Siadat finished 23rd with a score of 245.60.
Tuttle said that the state meet was another great meet for Galayda, who has been successful all year in every meet he’s competed in.
“He was nearly flawless in that routine at the conference meet,” said Tuttle. “He was just as good at the trials meet…just a little under and upper rotated on a couple of dives. But still to the common eye, it was a near perfect dive.”
Galayda scored highest on his two-and-a-half backflip with a two-and-a-half twist (54.0), which was the same score he got at the conference meet. It’s a dive that Tuttle said Galayda has been really nailing. Tuttle also said that it was probably the best dive he saw from Galayda’s arsenal at the state meet.
“That’s been a strongpoint for him, and it’s a fun one to watch as well,” said Tuttle. “Just watching a two and a half twist go down, as if it were nothing, is quite impressive.”
Kevin Bradley of Norwalk-Brien McMahon won the Class LL diving title with a score of 572.10, followed by Devon Satir of Greenwich (537.95), Ethan Godfrey of Glastonbury (450.85), Sergei Shaw of Greenwich (447.95), Nicholas Jefferson of Glastonbury (428.85), Caitlin Inall of Ridgefield (421.10), and Joel Satir of Greenwich (409.55).
Galayda was the only Knight to advance to the Connecticut State Open Diving Championship, which will take place on Thursday, March 15 at Bulkeley High School in Hartford. Warm-up is scheduled for 4 p.m. with competition slated to begin at 5:30 p.m.
Galayda is ranked 15th heading into the meet. The top 24 from the divisional meets, plus anyone in the top three of their division that was not in the top 24 overall, advanced to the state open.
After breaking the school’s six and 11-dive records at the conference meet and qualifying for the state open, most of Galayda’s goals for this season are already checked off of his list. Tuttle said that he’s expecting nothing less than great things out of Galayda at the state open.
“He’s going to be free to compete to the utmost of his potential Thursday at opens with some of those added pressures off of his shoulders,” said Tuttle. “I think he’s going to be up there having fun, and I think we’re going to see some good scores.”
For more in depth coverage, see our weekly print edition. To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.