By BRIAN JENNINGS
WEST HARTFORD—Blue Knight swimmers scored 31 personal best times as Southington rallied for 264 to capture second place behind the Conard Chieftains (277) at the 2015 CCC West conference championship on Tuesday, Mar. 3 at the Cornerstone Aquatic Center in West Hartford.
Southington suffered their only regular season losses to Conard and Hall, so many saw the conference meet as another chance for the Knights to get revenge against the two West Hartford schools. But Tuttle said his team had a different mindset heading into the meet.
“How many best times we were producing by the end of the meet was the bigger picture and the focus I wanted on this meet,” said Tuttle. “We had 31 best times out of 11 events by the end of the meet, which is impressive. I’ll take that any day.”
Some Southington swimmers were on the bubble with state qualifying times but were pushed over the edge to hit automatic qualifying times. . Many more put themselves in a good position for seeding into the Class LL swimming championship by posting lower times. Whatever the case, Southington coach Evan Tuttle said he thought his guys did extremely well.
“It’s our best finish in the conference meet since the Knights won the conference back in 2003,” said Tuttle. “The CCC West has always been a strong conference and this year was no different. This conference championship meet is an exceptional display of that talent in the sport of swimming and diving. There’s a mix of big and small schools. Those kids all work hard. I’m always happy to be in this conference.”
Tuttle said his swimmers prepared a little differently for the conference meet than they would prepare for a regular season meet.
“Winding down to the end of the season, you try to get those kids in peak condition for one final championship race, so they can expend all of their energy and turn in best times,” said the coach. “We did it in stages because some kids were tapering and some were on the bubble. I was happy with the way we were able to do that.”
Southington swimmers scored four automatic qualifying times at the event. P.J. Ramsey clinched a postseason berth with his second place finish in the 100 butterfly (58.55).
Zack Blake scored a tournament bid with his second place finish in the 100 backstroke (1:01.23), and Nick Brazil scored a qualifying time with his second place finish in the 100 backstroke (1:01.23).
Kevin Corcoran scored second place in the 200 freestyle (1:58.06) and clinched a postseason spot by dropping five seconds from his previous best to claim second place in the 500 freestyle (5:18.61).
“The kid is genuinely kind and when I think of him, the term noble comes to mind,” the Knights coach said. “He’s always the one making the right decisions at all times. The work ethic that the kid has is something I want to see instilled in every person on this team. He works at it and he wants people to be working as hard as him. He’s never negative about anything. He’s made me very proud, not just this year, but throughout his entire high school career. And to see it pay off today was great.”
Even those who didn’t clinch an automatic berth pared time from their seed times with top finishes at the meet.
Southington relay’s each finished in the top three. Blake, Ramsey, and Brazil teamed with Matt Duszak for a third place finish in the 200 medley relay (1:51.16). Brazil, John Stevens, Ben Wakefield, and Ramsey scored second place in the 200 freestyle relay (1:41.27), while Mack Golos, Corcoran, Evan Bender, and Blake (3:44.78) finished third in the 400 freestyle.
Individually, the Knights performed just as well.
Golos (1:58.8) scored second place in the 200 freestyle, and Austin Bull (2:04.76) finished eighth overall.
Blake (2:16.81) paced the Knights in the 200 individual medley with a third place finish, and Bender (2:19.23) dropped two seconds from his seed time to finish sixth. With his ninth place finish, Ben Wakefield (2:23.27) was the third Knight to crack the top 10 in the event.
Ramsey led the Knights in the 50 freestyle (23.61). Zajac (1:04.11) followed in eighth place, and Wakefield (1:06.90) scored 12th overall.
Brazil (55.19) scored a fifth place finish in the 100 freestyle, and Olan (59.40) placed 12th. Golos (5:30.98) scored fifth overall in the 500 freestyle, and Bull (5:51.88) finished 11th overall. Bender finished fifth overall in the 100 backstroke (1:02.72).
Duszak (1:08.57) finished third in the 100 breaststroke, and Stevens (1:09.58) finished sixth.
Even in the diving competition, Southington held its own. On Monday, March 2, Victoria Duszak clawed her way to seventh place (138.7), scoring just one half point from her personal best.
Now, the Knights look to carry that momentum into the postseason this weekend at the Class LL Qualifying Trials in Hamden.
Southington earned entries into all but two events at the Qualifying Trials with multiple entries in five separate races as the field of 36 entries gets pared down to 24 finalists in each event.
Southington qualified four different swimmers in one event. Brazil, Duszak, Stevens, and Bull each earned entry into the 100 breaststroke.
The swimming finals will be held on Tuesday, March 17 at Wesleyan University in Middletown.