By KEVIN ROBERTS
Southington boys swimming and diving coach Evan Tuttle kept his Blue Knights on the Southington Community YMCA pool deck for several minutes following an 88-79 loss to Conard on Feb. 13. After the bulk of the team was dismissed for the day, Tuttle laid down the gauntlet to his senior captains.
The coach said that he was looking for better focus from his swimmers. Tuttle thought that the score should have been closer.
“We’ve got to refocus. The energy was down,” said the coach. “We did not do well with what is in our control today. We put themselves at a disadvantage right from the start, and we know that we can’t do that.”
What is under Southington’s control is attitude and energy, something Tuttle always emphasizes. It’s not just about winning, it’s about earning best times and improving every day, according to Tuttle. Now, said the coach, the Knights have to regroup and move forward.
There were some bright spots. The Knights did well in the 100 backstroke and trailed the Chieftains by 13 points, 76-63, entering the 100 breaststroke. Conard won the breaststroke, 12-4, to make the 400 freestyle relay an exhibition event.
The Chieftains finished first and third in the 200 medley relay to take a quick 10-4 lead. After Southington won the 200 freestyle, 9-7, Conard ripped off three straight 11-5 event wins by claiming first and second place or first and third place in each event. When the Chieftains took first and third in the 100 butterfly, they led the Knights, 50-28. The slow start was too much to overcome for Southington.
Tyler Heidgerd and Derek Melanson were double winners for the Knights. Heidgerd finished first in the 200 freestyle (1:52.79) and 100 freestyle (51.96) while Melanson took the top spot in the 500 freestyle (5:24.65) and 100 backstroke (1:00.10). Southington also won the exhibition 400 freestyle relay behind the team of Landon Colby, Brian Egan, Melanson and Heidgerd (3:42.39).
When Southington returned to competition on Feb. 15 for Senior Day against Simsbury, the energy was there in an 89-75 victory. Teammates loudly cheered each other on, and cheered the Trojans on as well.
“I had mentioned that the best way in which we can honor our seniors is to do so in the pool. The Blue Knights certainly did that,” Tuttle said.
Senior captains Elena Famiglietti, Logan McInnis, Jackson Schroeder and Kian Sadat were recognized during a break following the 50 freestyle, along with fellow seniors Scott Crooks, Avery Delong, Chase Galayda and Jeremiah Segrue. Tuttle had something special to say about each senior during the ceremony.
During the Simsbury meet, Southington had plenty of winning efforts. It started with the 200 medley relay of Melanson, Jackson Malsheske, Colby and Heidgerd (1:50.44). The winning 200 freestyle relay (1:38.34) was made up of Egan, Jon Cocchiola, Colby and Heidgerd.
Individually, Colby and Heidgerd were double winners. Colby took first in the 200 IM (2:12.19) and 100 butterfly (58.09) while Heidgerd did the same in the 50 freestyle (23.69) and 100 freestyle (52.10). Melanson was first in the 500 freestyle (5:14.03) while Kyle Buchanan took first in the 200 freestyle (2:06.22).
It wasn’t just about honoring the seniors for Southington against Simsbury. It was also about “righting the ship,” according to Tuttle.
“Of course we want to win the meet, and were able to do so, but more importantly we want to do so while at our best,” Tuttle said, “ensuring that we are operating with a high level of energy, character and sportsmanship; all of which was on display Friday for our senior meet. The meet also put momentum squarely back on our side with the end of the regular season within sight and conference championships just around the corner. We need to ensure that we capture that momentum from the senior meet and carry it forward.”
Up next: Southington ends the regular season with a pair of road meets. The Knights went up against NW Catholic on Tuesday at the Farmington Valley YMCA in Granby. On Friday, Southington ends the regular season against South Windsor in a 3:45 p.m. meet at the Star Hill Athletic Center in Tolland.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com