By KEVIN ROBERTS
Southington boys swimming and diving has done some subtraction and addition with its roster for the 2019 season. The subtraction is the loss of nine seniors, including Class LL state finalists Brendon Egan, Quint Kimmel, Evan Bender and Alex Kuhr. The addition is eight newcomers, including “dynamic freshmen” Jakub Zukowski and Landon Colby.
Coach Evan Tuttle, in his ninth season at the helm, has the same goal for his charges as always, and that’s get as many athletes to the state postseason as possible.
“Although the winter swim season is the longest season of any high school sport, we aim to make it as long as possible by advancing as far as possible,” Tuttle said.
Back for the Blue Knights this winter are senior captains Elena Famiglietti, Logan McInnis, Jackson Schroeder and Kian Siadat. Siadat and fellow senior Chase Galayda were Class LL finalists in diving last season. Galayda finished in eighth place at the Class LL meet.
“Proven leaders on the team, these four will use their considerable experience and sportsmanlike character to lead our team to wins, but doing so the right way at all times,” Tuttle said.
Southington also returns a strong junior class, led by Class LL finalists EJ Suski, Tyler Heidgerd, Derek Melanson and Brian Egan. Heidgerd had the best finish for any Knight in Class LL last season when he took third in the 100 backstroke. Class LL diving qualifier Ben Raggozine is back for his junior season as well. Fellow Class LL qualifier Jackson Malsheske returns for his sophomore season.
Southington will have to make up for the loss of nine seniors, including captains Jacob Holbrook, Ben Wakefield, Egan, Bender and Kimmel. Tuttle has confidence in his returning athletes.
“The 2017-2018 team graduated a very talented senior class, in fact 75 percent of our state open team were seniors,” Tuttle said. “While these young men and women are irreplaceable, they did a tremendous job mentoring our underclassmen over the years, who are now poised to rise up and take the stage from last year’s impressive senior class. From all-state swimmer Tyler Heidgerd to record-breaking diver Chase Galayda, distance specialist Derek Melanson to sprinter Brian Egan.”
The influx of new faces on the Southington roster, including Zukowski and Colby, could bring some added depth.
“We’ve added eight new athletes to the program this year who will be looking to make an immediate impact with the team,” Tuttle said.
Siadat, Galayda, Suski and Raggozine form a strong diving group, which is led by assistant coach Jan Zagorski. Zagorski also works with the girls team in the fall. Galayda (eighth), Suski (14th) and Siadat (23rd) all scored team points for Southington in the Class LL diving meet, and Raggozine just missed doing the same.
“Southington will be strong up and down the meet lineup this year,” Tuttle said. “While we will match up differently against one team or another, a dominant force within our meets will certainly be our diving core. Coming off of tremendous 2017-2018 season, each of our divers is returning stronger and more talented for 2018-2019.”
The Knights have quite the streak going entering this season. Southington has won the last two CCC West championship meets, and several of the athletes returning this season contributed to last year’s title. Heidgerd won the 200 freestyle and 100 backstroke. Melanson finished second in the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle while Brian Egan was fifth in the 100 backstroke and sixth in the 50 freestyle.
Southington will need to work hard to get back to where it was on that night at the Cornerstone Aquatics Center in West Hartford.
“There are no easy meets on the schedule; each team we face is rich with talent, both in the pool and on the board,” Tuttle said. “Our division especially has continued to produce high quality teams that offer some of the best swimming and diving you will see in the CCC.”
You can bet that Southington swimmers will be putting in a maximum effort every day to be the best that they can be by the time the postseason rolls around in late February.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com