By BRIAN JENNINGS
On Saturday, March 17, Southington sent two relays to the State Open Swimming Championship, and both came away just shy of school records at Yale University’s Payne Whitney Gymnasium in New Haven. Southington coach Evan Tuttle said that their performance was the icing on the cake.
“To improve time is really something special,” said Tuttle. “The kids swimming at that meet did an outstanding job.”
The 200 freestyle relay was the only Southington swim to drop time on the day. Brian Egan, Brendon Egan, Quintin Kimmel, and Alexander Kuhr came in with a seeded time of 1:31.95 and finished 15th with a mark of 1:31.44. Tuttle said that he knew it was going to take a pretty impressive performance for the 200 freestyle relay to drop time from its Class LL performance.
“They swam so well at the Class LL finals, but they were able to drop a little more,” said Tuttle. “I know they were going after the school record. They needed another half second to beat the school record, and they just nearly missed out on that.”
Southington’s 200 medley relay also had a shot at a school record. They needed to drop a second from their time of 1:41.92 to get the school record, but Tyler Heidgerd, Brendon Egan, Evan Bender, and Kuhr moved up four spots from their seeded position to finish 18th, which Tuttle said was a tremendous accomplish.
“They were firing on all cylinders at the Class LL finals because we knew that it would take our best to get into the state open in the first place,” said Tuttle. “They put everything they had into that Class LL finals meet. To come back and swim a comparable time was good.”
Heidgerd capped off the meet for the Knights with a 13th-place finish and mark of 54.47 in the 100 backstroke. Heidgerd was the first Knight to swim an individual event at the state open since Michael Smigelski took the 50 freestyle title in 2012, along with being runner-up in the 100 freestyle. Tuttle said that it meant a lot for Heidgerd to get that experience as a sophomore.
“He’s young, and he’s determined,” said Tuttle. “How he closed out this season is just evidence of how he’s going to perform in the future, and I’m excited to see where the kid goes over the next couple of years.”
Tuttle said that any differences he could point out between Heidgerd’s two state performances in the 100 backstroke were his turns off the wall. But Tuttle also said that to finish 13th overall in the state of Connecticut at the state open is quite an accomplishment.
“He’s so strong, and his carry in the water is really impressive,” said Tuttle. “I told him before his race that there’s no one that has a faster and stronger turnover on top of the water. Just attack those walls and do your thing.”
Heidgerd is one of the many talented underclassmen returning for the Knights next season, and Tuttle said that he will continue to swim during the offseason.
“He’s devoted and determined to improve in the sport,” said Tuttle. “Growing into his body, getting a little bigger and stronger over the next couple of years, there’s no telling what that young man can’t do.”
As a team, Southington tied for 22nd overall with 68 points. Greenwich (487.5) fended off Fairfield Prep (457) by over 30 points to win their sixth-straight CIAC state open title (34th overall).
Earlier in the week, the Knights entered the Class LL Swimming Championship, held at the Freeman Athletic Center in Middletown (Wesleyan University), with 14 swims and placed eighth out of 22 teams with 253 points. All but three of their 14 swims improved their seeded times. Southington’s eight-place finish was their first top ten finish in six years and the best finish the Knights have had at the Class LL finals in Tuttle’s tenure.
Heidgerd came into the meet seeded sixth in the 100 backstroke with a seeded time of 54.64 and advanced to the open by moving up a few spots to third with a season-best of 53.9, which was Southington’s top overall finish in an event. Heidgerd’s performance earned him all-state honors.
Brian Egan, Brendon Egan, Kimmel, and Kuhr advanced to the open by earning the best finish for a Southington relay in the 200 freestyle relay, moving up a spot from their seed of eighth to seventh with a time of 1:31.95. Heidgerd, Brendon Egan, Evan Bender, and Kuhr advanced to the open by finishing ninth in the 200 medley relay with a time of 1:41.83.
Brian Egan, Derek Melanson, Kimmel, and Heidgerd qualified as the first alternate in the 400 freestyle relay at the open by dropping the most time of any Southington relay, losing more than eight seconds off their seeded mark of 3:30.11 with a time of 3:22.02. As he did at the conference meet, Kimmel came in with a seeded mark of 5:10.48 in the 500 freestyle and dropped the most time out of any Southington swim, shaving more than 10 seconds off his seed with a season best of 4:59.92.
Greenwich (833) sat high above their usual perch and fended off Fairfield Prep (643.5) by almost 190 points to win their sixth-straight (44th overall) CIAC Class LL title.
Putting the swimming season into perspective, Tuttle said that the seniors will be missed from this year’s team, but the sophomore and junior classes will step up next year to pick the Knights up and put them back on track to make them successful again.
“I know that we’ve got a couple of kids coming up to the program next year that are going to be contributing immediately,” said Tuttle. “So we can ensure that Southington swimming and diving will remain successful.”
For more in depth coverage, see our weekly print edition. To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.