Newington's six senior swimmers (from left to right: Vinh Dau, Tyler Coleman, Michael Allo, Jacob Mermelstein, Jeremy Rippel, Zachary Saunders)
Nobody should be sad on Valentine’s Day.
The swim teams at Newington and Rocky Hill took that to that saying to heart last Tuesday night, drawing to a 93-93 tie in front of loved ones at NHS.
The tie was a fitting finish to a thrilling dual meet, featuring two evenly matched and equally competitive teams.
“This is a team that we’ve never beaten or tied, so for us a tie is a huge win,” Rocky Hill coach Lisa Cooney said following the meet, “It’s usually a team that out distances us to the point where they go exhibition and don’t take any more points. This is a huge, huge accomplishment for us to tie them.”
Cooney’s bunch led 89-83 heading into the final event, but Newington finished 1st and 3rd in the 400 freestyle relay, earning enough points to draw even.
The Indians relay team of Nicholas Goegel, Maksym Ugrak, Luke Fote, and Michael Allo edged the Terriers relay team of Joseph Hamann, Christian Federici, Brian Speers, and Mack Sullivan by .63 of a second to win the event.
Newington’s group of Zachary Saunders, Robert Nagy, Sean Abrams, and Tyler Coleman placed third about ten seconds later.
“We knew it was 1-3 to tie,” said Newington coach Gary Harrigan, “We took our fastest swimmer out of the A-relay and it worked out.”
The meet’s momentum went back and forth all night and featured several great individual swims. Sullivan paced Rocky Hill, winning the 200 individual medley and teaming with Federici, Hamann, and Andre Costa for a first-place finish in the 200 freestyle relay.
“He has been one of our best swimmers since he was a freshman and he’s really stepped up this year. He’s been consistent and been mentoring the younger swimmers,” Cooley said of Sullivan, who is one of only two seniors on the team’s roster, “He’s also been versatile in meets. I’ve put him in all different events and he really rises to the challenge and puts in 100% in every race. He’s the kind of kid that takes responsibility when he didn’t have his best swim or he makes a mistake. I love that he shows that type of accountability and respect for doing his best for the younger swimmers.”
Speers also had a great night for Rocky Hill, winning the 200 and 500 freestyle. The junior won the 200 by seven seconds and the 500 by a whopping 27 seconds.
Adam Chao of the Terriers shined in the 100 breaststroke and backstroke, winning both events.
“I have people doing best times. I don’t ever expect best times until the end of the year and yet I’ve had kids doing best times meet after meet after meet,” added Cooley, “They’re continually lowering their times and I think that once we start to taper down they will really have incredible accomplishments at states.”
Cooley and her team had won six of their previous eight meets prior to the tie with Newington.
The Indians were hosting the event and celebrating Senior Night. Harrigan has a half-dozen seniors in the pool and all have made waves this
“The seniors did a good job today. It’s tough, some of them have to juggle jobs and other things,” said Harrigan, “We’ve had a couple of seniors definitely step up this season and do a great job. We’ve got six seniors, three of the seniors are captains and they’ve done a really good job.”
Allo is one of those captains and has come back better than ever following a good showing at states a season ago.
On Tuesday, he was part of two victorious relay teams and he was the runner-up in the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke.
“Michael is doing extremely well. He’s worked really hard,” added Harrigan, “Robert Nagy also hit some of his best times at the end of last year. He trained all through the offseason and worked very hard to get here. He’s doing great.”
Nagy is one of the team’s two juniors and had wins in both the 50 and 100 freestyles against Rocky Hill.
The entire team has benefited from a change in their approach to preparation over the past couple of years.
“We changed the way that we trained last year and this year. We’re more focused on the end of the season than we are dual meets,” added Harrigan, “We’re headed in the right direction. We swam well today and we swam a few best times. This gives us a little bit of momentum going forward.”
The divers took center stage midway through the meet and put on a show.
A season ago Newington graduated diving-extraordinaire Raymond Niestat, who is currently diving for Dartmouth College. Sophomore John Famiglietti is picking up where Niestat left off and posted the best overall score at the meet, followed by Rocky Hill’s Christian Cannata and Andre Costa.
After the water had settled, the scoreboard was even and everyone went home a winner. The local swimmers and divers put on a memorable Valentine’s Day meet witnessed by several family and friends, who filled up the viewing section above the pool inside NHS.
“We normally get a pretty good crowd. Parents come out to support the team and it’s was good to see them here tonight,” said Harrigan.
The teams will reunite when the CCC (Central Connecticut Conference) Championships start the first week in March. The divers will compete Thurs, March 2 at Rocky Hill High School at 6 p.m. and the swimmers will take to the pool on Fri, March 3 at Wethersfield High School at 4:30 p.m.
Sports Around Town
Indians Girls Basketball Ends Regular Season on a High Note
Newington girls’ basketball ended the regular season on a seven-game winning streak after defeating Wethersfield 46-33 in their regular season finale last Tuesday night at NHS. Abrial Murray scored a game-high 19 points, freshman Ashanti Frazier added nine points and five steals, and Olivia St Remy hauled down eight rebounds in the victory. Both teams finished the regular season 13-7 and both are now preparing for the Class LL tourney, starting next week.
WMRP Hockey Crowned Local Kings of the Ice
The co-op Wethersfield/Middletown/Rocky Hill/Plainville ice hockey team defeated the co-op team from Newington 4-1 last Saturday night. Paul Wheatley scored a pair of goals and assisted on another to Tyler Piecewicz, who also added two assist of his own. It was the second time this season that the Eagles defeated the Indians, also winning 5-1 on Jan 14. The latest win improved the Eagles to 14-3, which currently ranks them second in Division III.
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin