Swimming: Conference meet title is icing on the cake

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Evan Watson competes in the breaststroke during Southington’s title run at the CCC West Championship.

Many of the swimmers on the Southington boys team may be experiencing some déjà vu this season. Like in 2018, the Blue Knights followed up their regular season CCC West title with a win in the divisional championships on March 4. It was their sixth conference title in program history.

In 2018, Southington outscored second place Conard by almost 60 points. It wasn’t that wide of a margin in 2020, but the Knights were still able to place first in more than half the events, and the medley relay team placed themselves in the conference meet record books.

“The championship meets have certainly been kind to us, with many athletes posting personal bests, capturing event titles and even breaking meet records,” head coach Evan Tuttle said. “The answer to how the swimmers and divers do so well is quite simple. They prepare. The athletes have been training all season, making big and small adjustments in order to improve and be their best.”

The medley relay team, which included Derek Melanson, Jon Cocchiola, Landon Colby and Tyler Heidgerd finished first overall and broke the conference meet record with a time of 1:40.93.

“While one cannot know that they will post best marks, the team carries a confident and positive mindset into each race and into each dive,” Tuttle said. “Having a positive mindset and being mentally strong makes one infinitely more likely to perform than otherwise.”

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The 400 freestyle relay team, which qualified for the state open last season, showed up once again as Melanson, Heidgerd, Colby, and Kyle Buchanan took first in a time of 3:23.64.

The 200 free relay team of Cocchiola, Buchanan, Dan Perez and Jackson Malsheske finished 3rd in a time of 1:36.38.

Melanson, Heidgerd, and Colby also took home individual conference titles. Heidgerd was the one double winner for Southington, taking the conference title in in the 200 free, in 1:50.63, and the 100 back, in 55.30.

Melanson and Colby ended up battling each other for the conference title in two different events, and each beat the other once. Melanson’s time of 2:04.19 in the individual medley beat out Colby’s time of 2:06.27 to win the conference title. Colby got the upper-hand in the 100 butterfly, as his time of 54.74 beat Melanson’s of 55.71 to win the conference title.

Malsheske was the final Blue Knight to win a conference title, placing first in the 500 free with a time of 5:03.97. Malsheske also finished fourth overall in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:05.59.

There were other notable performances as well. Buchanan was runner-up in the 200 free (1:56.46) and finished sixth in the 100 free (53.04). Cocchiola finished fourth in both the 50 free (23.64) and the 100 free (52.07). Egan was runner-up in the 100 back (59.89) and finished seventh in the 50 free (24.25). Matt Niro finished sixth overall in the 500 free (5:37.67) and seventh overall in the 100 back (1:03.19).

“The success that our team has accrued so far this season has been a whole team effort,” Tuttle said. “While the veteran athletes have certainly been consistent and at the heart of our wins, it could not have been done without each member of the team, whether they are rookies, veterans, lifelong swimmers or competing for the first time.”

Southington also dominated the diving championships the day before. While they did not place first, they had four top-10 finishers. EJ Suski placed third with a score of 227.65, with Alex Rosania finishing right behind him with 203.60. Nico Smith finished sixth with 177.55, with Ben Ragozzine right behind in seventh with 174.20.

Southington was set to compete in both the Class LL and state open championships. However, the CIAC announced Tuesday that it canceled all remaining winter sporting events due to concerns about the coronavirus. The Blue Knights were still able to end their season as champions.

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