By KEVIN ROBERTS
Southington boys swimming was ready to go from the first race until the last at the CCC West Division championship meet on Feb. 27 at West Hartford’s Cornerstone Aquatics Center. Coach Evan Tuttle told the Blue Knights that this was their meet, their territory.
“We always show up and perform well, and we proved that again today,” Tuttle said.
That was after Southington took third place with 208 points. Farmington won the meet with 256 points while Conard was second with 219. Hall finished fourth with 177 points, followed by NW Catholic (149) and Simsbury (112).
“I was very impressed with Farmington. I knew it was going to be a battle between our four programs; between Hall, Conard, Farmington and ourselves,” Tuttle said. “For Farmington to snag that top spot, they had to have a complete meet, and it started with diving [on Feb. 26]. Their divers got them some early points and their athletes stepped up. They had a tremendous performance.”
Southington was no slouch at the CCC West meet. “We had 51 best times in the pool today,” Tuttle said. “Whether it was somebody who was competing for a conference title or if it was someone in the first heat who was just trying for his best time, everyone did their job today.”
Junior Tyler Heidgerd defended his conference title in the 100 backstroke (56.38) and just missed winning the 100 freestyle (49.90). Farmington sophomore Joe-Michael Harb won the 100 freestyle in 49.78, only 0.12 second ahead of Heidgerd.
“He got caught underwater a little bit on his turns, so that’s something we’re going to work on in practice for the next week to get ready for LL trials,” Tuttle said.
That was one small struggle in what was a big day for Heidgerd, who also helped the 400 freestyle relay capture a conference title (3:26.83).
“It was awesome. I knew that was going to be the race of the meet,” Tuttle said. “I put our ‘A’ lineup in there. I knew Hall was going to be coming, I knew Farmington was going to be there too, but as you could see, Hall and Southington kind of separated themselves early and throughout that race, and there was no more than a second separating those relays the entire time. Tyler closed it down in the end with a 49-low split to capture that relay.”
All four swimmers did well on that 400 freestyle relay. Junior Brian Egan swam his 100 yards in 53.76 seconds, then fellow junior Derek Melanson swam his 100 in 51.85. Freshman Landon Colby did his 100 in 51.95, then Heidgerd swam the final 100 in 49.27.
The championship races were far from the only top performances of the day.
“Derek had a great performance, two runner-up positions for Derek in the IM and the 500,” Tuttle said. “Jackson Malsheske hit a [Class LL state] auto-cut in the 500, he dropped eight seconds in his 500. Jon Cocchiola hit an auto-cut in the 100 freestyle, he had a phenomenal meet. He had best times up and down the board.”
Melanson turned in times of 2:07.69 in the 200 IM and 5:04.85 in the 500 freestyle. Malsheske, a sophomore, finished third in the 500 freestyle (5:09.28) and was seventh in the 100 breaststroke (1:07.650. Cocchiola, a junior, was sixth in the 100 freestyle (52.97) and eighth in the 50 freestyle (23.96). Colby was third in the 200 IM (2:09.92) and fourth in the 100 freestyle (52.50).
The 200 medley relay of Heidgerd, Malsheske, Melanson and Cocchiola finished third (1:47.00) while the 200 freestyle relay of Egan, Cocchiola, freshman Liam Schroeder and Colby was fifth (1:36.98).
Southington also picked up team points from the following swimmers: junior Kyle Buchanan (8th in 200 freestyle, 2:01.47); senior Jeremiah Segrue (12th in 200 freestyle, 2:10.73); freshman Jakub Zukowski (9th in 200 IM, 2:23.92; 10th in 100 butterfly, 1:05.63); Egan (9th in 50 freestyle, 24.05); junior Gianna Wadowski (11th in 100 butterfly, 1:07.40; 11th in 100 backstroke, 1:10.13); and junior Ryan Barretta (10th in 500 freestyle, 6:03.34).
Tuttle was happy with Southington’s effort, especially against such good opponents. The Knights finished higher than Hall, a team it had lost to during the regular season.
“It was nice to avenge one of our dual meet losses from the year,” Tuttle said. “You look at the points separating first through fourth, it’s not a lot. You’re talking just a couple of races swinging one way or the other, and that’s a swap probably from first to third place. It was a good meet.”
Up next: Southington was scheduled to compete in the Class LL diving trials and finals on Thursday at Middletown High School. The Knights take part in the Class LL swim trials on Saturday at 6 p.m. at East Hartford High School. The Class LL championship meet is on Monday, March 11, at 1:30 p.m. at Southern Connecticut State University.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com