Swimmers ready to defend conference title

Derek Melanson, above, is among a strong core of returning veterans that will be key to Southington’s CCC title defense.

SPENCER DREHER

STAFF WRITER

Southington boys swimming is just one year removed from an undefeated, conference championship season in 2018-19.  While many of those talented swimmers from that season have graduated, coach Evan Tuttle’s squad returns a young and determined group from 2019.  It also welcomes a handful of newcomers who can make an immediate impact.

Southington lost at least eight seniors for the third straight season, including record-holding diver, Chase Galayda and Class LL finalist diver, Kian Siadat.  However, the Blue Knights have been able to reload instead of rebuild.

“Even though the team lost a significant number of athletes there is an equal number of key returners,” said Tuttle, who is entering his 10th season as the helm.  “The Blue Knights return seniors and state open finalists EJ Suski, Tyler Heidgerd, Derek Melanson, and Brian Egan. Also returning for their senior campaigns are Class LL finalists Ben Ragozzine and Jon Cocchiola and LL qualifier Kyle Buchanan. Returning for his junior year is Class LL finalist Jackson Malsheske and returning for his sophomore year is state open finalist Landon Colby.”

With the loss of Galayda and Siadat, diving is one key void that Tuttle hopes can be filled.  Suski and Ragozzine’s seasons from a year ago show signs that they can fill that void. Tuttle said he also expects contributions  from a large group of freshmen.

“We’ve added 14 new athletes to the program this year who will be looking to make an immediate impact with the team, including four dynamic freshman divers,” Tuttle said.

Heidgard, Melanson, Egan, and Colby competed in the 400 freestyle relay at the state open a year ago, finishing 22nd overall.  That relay team finished first in each meet last season that they were together, including in the CCC championship meet.  Heidgard also competed in the 100 free and is the most experienced Blue Knight in the postseason.

At last year’s Class LL meet, the 200 medley relay team of Melanson, Malsheske, Egan and Cocchiola finished 11th while the 200 freestyle relay of Heidgerd, Cocchiola, Colby and Egan also placed 11th.  Each of those teams can become a top 10 team in the class this season.

“Our team overall goal this year, as it is each year, is to advance as many athletes to the state tournament as possible,” Tuttle said.  “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. We have a strong core group of student athletes who have been working tirelessly in the off season to make this their best year yet.”

The Blue Knights started the season on the road, traveling to Cheshire on Jan. 3 before playing at Plainville last Tuesday.  They will make their home debut on Jan. 14 against East Catholic at 3:45 p.m.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Spencer Dreher, email him at SDreher@SouthingtonObserver.com.

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