Divers make a splash at Class LL meet

The Blue Knights gather at the Middletown High School pool following the Class LL diving championship. From left, SHS diving coach Jan Zagorski, Chase Galayda, E.J. Suski, Ben Ragozzine, Kian Siadat, and SHS swim coach Evan Tuttle.

By KEVIN ROBERTS

STAFF WRITER

Twenty-four divers made the cut for the final three dives at the Class LL diving meet on March 7 at Middletown High School. Four of those divers were from Southington, and the Blue Knights showed that they belonged among the best that the biggest class in the state has to offer.

Greenwich was the only other team to put in a full card of divers. If a fifth diver was allowed, junior Ben Smith would have competed as well. Smith also qualified for the Class LL meet, but only four divers can compete.

“You’re only allowed to submit four entries per event in states, so we had a full card,” coach Evan Tuttle said. “We were 4-for-4, and then got all four into Class LL finals. It was awesome. Everyone improved, and it was a great meet.”

The four divers, senior Chase Galayda, junior Emerson “E.J.” Suski, junior Ben Ragozzine and senior Kian Sadat, were all smiles when they posed with Tuttle and diving coach Jan Zagorski for a post-meet photo. They had every reason to smile. Galayda was the top Knight, finishing fourth with a score of 399.85. Norwalk-McMahon’s Kevin Bradley claimed the state championship for the second straight year with a score of 547.65. Bradley even got a 10 from one of the judges on one of his dives.

“It was very impressive diving, extremely impressive diving,” Tuttle said of the meet overall. “Kevin from Norwalk was phenomenal. He was the defending champ, and he certainly defended his title this year. Chase medaling in his senior year is exactly what we wanted to do, and he achieved that goal.”

Galayda finished just sixth at the CCC West Division meet on Feb. 26, but put the work in to get better.

“It was a huge turnaround,” Tuttle said. “He didn’t have his best meet at conferences, and he had to not just refocus physically and get it back together in practice, but to refocus mentally is the much harder task, and he did so.”

Tuttle pointed out the degree of difficulty on Galayda’s final dive, which included two and a half twists. Galayda scored 6, 6, 5, 5.5 and 6.5 on that dive, and the higher degree of difficulty added to the score.

“He was only eight points off from second place. There were only eight points that separated fourth from second, it was that close,” Tuttle said.

Chase Galayda, third from the right, is awarded a fourth place medal at the Class LL diving championships. Galayda and E.J. Suski (7th place) will advance to the state open.

Suski finished seventh with a score of 367.20, and he was so close to the top six and a medal, alongside Galayda.

“E.J. had a phenomenal meet, and it was a crushing end to the meet for him,” Tuttle said. “He was sitting in sixth place prior to the final dive, and there was a miscommunication between our scoresheet and the table scoresheet. They read off a tuck, he did a pike, and because of that, if you do the wrong position dive, you can’t score more than two. He got hit with that penalty, and it knocked him from sixth into seventh.”

It was a disappointing ending to a great meet for Suski, but now he has motivation for the state open meet, and for next year, according to Tuttle. Suski also finished better than any Southington junior ever has at a Class LL meet.

Not only did Southington divers improve during the season, but they also improved during the actual meet on March 7. Ragozzine moved up from 20th place to 19th place (270.35), despite getting penalized on his last dive of the finals.

“Ben Ragozzine had a good meet. Jan’s been upping his degree of difficulty, as with all of them,” Tuttle said. “You throw those higher degree dives, you’re not always going to hit it perfect, but the points will still continue to rack up. He cleared into finals and he finished strong. As a junior, he worked in the offseason to get ready for this year. He’s going to work in the offseason again to get ready for senior year, and I look forward to seeing what he can do next year as well.”

Siadat did what he had to do to move off of the cut line and get into the 24th and last position for finals.

“I said ‘you are the cut right now, so you got to step up, you got to nail these dives,’” Tuttle said. “He did exactly that, and he snuck in by five one-hundredths of a point. And then his final three dives, he jumped over three more places.”

Siadat had three solid dives in the finals and finished 21st overall (257.15). Tuttle had said that diving would be a strength of the Southington program this season, and he was proven correct.

“We’re going to be graduating two of our divers, Chase obviously, and Kian. They’re going to be impossible to replace,” Tuttle said, “but don’t forget we also had Ben Smith who qualified for states, but we couldn’t get him in because you could only enter four, and he was our fifth. We’ll have EJ, Ben Ragozzine and Ben Smith back next year, and hopefully recruit some fresh young blood in there to continue the strong diving legacy that’s developed over the past few years.”

Up next: Galayda and Suski competed in the state open meet on Tuesday at Bulkeley High School in Hartford.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com

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