By BRIAN JENNINGS
Evan Tuttle has been championing his team’s depth in the preseason. He has been talking about match-up problems for opponents, and his team’s ability to beat you with their numbers.
On Friday, Jan. 9, that theory was put to the test in Manchester. The Indians return three seniors and a junior that anchored last year’s run into the top 10 at the state opens. If Southington was going to stay competitive, it was going to have to come from the depth.
“Our window of opportunity was pretty small,” said Tuttle. “We knew that they would be able to secure just about every first place finish due to the group of kids that they have. We knew that a win would have to come from our depth, and we had to get as many 2-3-4 finishes as possible. We had to minimize damages where we could, and we had to capitalize on every opportunity. We did exactly that.”
Manchester’s four horsemen wasted no time. The Indians scored a victory in the 200 medley relay, but Southington answered with second and third. Manchester won each of the next three races, but the Knights eked a two-point lead at the break.
Mack Golos, Kevin Corcoran, and Austin Bull finished 2-3-5 in the 200 freestyle. Evan Bender, Ben Wakefield, and Dariusz Zajac went 2-3-4 in the individual medley. PJ Ramsey, Nick Brazil, and John Stevens finished 2-3-4 in the 50 freestyle.
The Knights led, 32-30, but they were far from finished. Southington scored twice in every relay. The Knights placed three of the top five scores in every individual race. When Brazil, Stevens, Ramsey, and Golos finally earned a win with a victory in the 200 freestyle relay (1:41.93), Southington took their biggest lead of the contest, 68-56.
“It still came down to the last relay, but Manchester would have had to come in first and second to win,” said Tuttle. “The only thing that could have really beaten us was a false start by all three of our relays, but it took a tremendous effort to get to that point.”
With just one victory in 11events, Southington was able to escape with a 91-79 win.
“I think this was a big win for us and a good measuring stick,” said the coach. “Last year, Manchester beat us on the last relay. The year before, I think they did the same exact thing, so to be able to beat the same team that they had last year was a good mark for our growth and the depth that we’ve got.”
The win came on the heels of a convincing, 94-71, win over Platt-Maloney that finished was clinched with three races remaining.
“I thought we did great, not just because we came of the meet with a win—and a strong win at that—but we were able to get some individuals into some events that they haven’t swam before,” said Tuttle. “I asked them to rise to the challenge, and they did exactly that. We had a number of best times today. I’d be willing to say that over 90 percent of our swims today were best times.”
Brazil captured the title in the 50 freestyle (24.45). Corcoran won the 100 butterfly (1:01.82), and Southington swept the relays. Still, the Knights had to overcome some obstacles to score the victory.
A false start in the 100 freestyle left a Meriden swimmer confused at the starting line. Southington swimmers kept going to earn the win, but Tuttle ran the event again to give Maloney-Platt a chance to compete in a fair competition.
Meriden’s top swimmer scored the victory in the rematch. Ramsey, Steven Sokolowski, and Jay Olan managed to score second, third, and fourth place despite tired arms and legs.
“We had a malfunction with the starter, and the Meriden lead swimmer stopped swimming. We did the right thing and kept swimming, but I didn’t want that to decide the race,” said Tuttle. “We don’t want the easy way out. We want to swim against somebody, so we came back and swam it again after the 500 free. Those were some extra yards that those guys had to swim today, but I think they are glad that they did it.”
Now, the Knights will look to defend their 2-0 record at Rocky Hill on Tuesday and at home against Berlin on Friday.
“I’m pretty excited to see how our divers are progressing with our away meet, and then we’ll start dipping into our conference,” said Tuttle. “It will be just as challenging as Manchester was, but hopefully we’ll come out with the same result.”