(Lee Schwartzman and his Eagles swimmers and divers are aiming to regain the conference title in 2018)
A year ago boys’ swimming and diving at Wethersfield failed to win a conference title for the first time in a decade.
The team’s resolution this year is to reclaim their rightful spot atop the conference mountain.
“There’s a pattern of banners up there and there’s one missing for the boys,” Eagles head coach Lee Schwartzman said pointing to the ring of honor above the WHS pool, “Now the girls have more conference titles than the boys, they were tied before. We had 10 in a row, but we didn’t get that one and there’s no going back. I hate it as much as anyone, I like putting the banners up and winning but at some point it’s going to end and it’s time to start a new streak.”
Schwartzman’s team is off to a perfect start in 2018, winning their first three meets including a surprisingly easy victory over rival Hall last Tuesday night.
“I thought it was going to be closer,” admitted Schwartzman, “We swim a little better than I thought and maybe they didn’t swim as good. I thought it might come down to the last relay again, but when I’m looking at a meet I assume they are going to go their best time from last season and usually you don’t get that. You have to plan for the best possible team they are going to put in the water and you have to try and beat that.”
Senior Blake Fulton began the meet with a bang, joining forces with Caleb Skowronek, Austin Bovino, and Holden Hoon to win the 200 Medley Relay. The foursome easily defeated the visiting Warriors by over three seconds.
Fulton then won the 200 Freestyle in the next event and also the 100 Backstroke later in the evening.
“We haven’t had a meet since December 19th and that’s a long time. There’s only so much you can practice. I can time kids in practice all the time, but they’re never going to go as fast in practice as they go in a meet. It was nice to get back in the pool and compete,” added Schwartzman.
The Eagles defeated the Bobcats of South Windsor in their season-opener, but had their second meet cancelled due to the snowstorm that blanketed Connecticut earlier this month.
“South Windsor went to the last relay. It’s tough in the first week because you don’t know how you’re going to do and you don’t know how the other team is going to do, so I was worried about that meet just because of that fact. They have a lot of year round swimmers, but our guys stepped up and swam really well.”
Schwartzman and diving coach Dave McOmber have a younger team, consisting of only four seniors. All four are captains and playing vital roles.
Fulton, Bovino, and Patrick McGuane are the swimming captains and Ryan McOmber is handling the duties for a strong group of divers.
McOmber, Hadden Gaunt, Brian Puglielli, and Jordan Griffin all scored well off the diving board in the win over the Warriors, each posting better scores than both of Hall’s divers.
Schwartzman added that his swimming captains enjoy joking around and keeping things light but flip the switch when it’s time to compete.
“The three of them have always been vocal, so it wasn’t surprising that all three of them got a lot of votes when we voted for captains. They’re all different and they all bring something different to the table.”
Bovino finished first in the 100 Fly against Hall and is one of several returning swimmers that have made great strides from last winter until now.
“He’s ahead now of where he was at this time last year and that’s really all that you can judge it on. He had a 57 in the fly in this meet last year and he went a 56 today. Once you start approaching state times midseason that’s a good place to be.”
Hoon is another surprising standout, taking his dedication to a new level as a junior.
“He used to be a baseball player and he decided after last season that he wanted to be a lot better at swimming and unfortunately how you get a lot better is you have to focus on that one sport. We all wants kids to play lots of sports, but at some point in high school you have to commit and sports require a lot of time. He was only swimming 12 to 15 weeks a year, now he just swam 50 in a row.”
The extra time in the water has made Hoon invaluable on relay teams and he also finished first in the 100 Freestyle Tuesday night.
Rory Stickley and Matthew Iallonardo have also caught the eye of the longtime coach.
“Rory is a freshman and he’s coming in doing best times. He’s already equaled lifetime, best times. Matt is also doing really well. He also swam in the fall so he’s way ahead of where he was last year. It’s nice, especially when it’s your juniors because they’re the ones really stepping up and winning events that they weren’t winning before.”
Hoon, Iallonardo, Skowronek, and Griffin are leading a rock solid junior class, which also includes Jack Blaisdell, Shane Bresnahan, Anthony Ky, Brendon Mansaku, and Dimitri Shaposhnikov.
The Eagles closed the week with another convincing win over Berlin last Thursday.
Next up is their annual challenge against Conard, Friday, Jan 19 at 5 p.m.
“That’s going to be close. I kind of have us as an underdog in that meet,” Schwartzman said on the looming showdown, “The kids will have to get pumped up. They have a lot of kids that can win events, so it will be up to our tops kids to win events and then some of the kids that are get fifths right now need to get fourths. Every event will be important and diving will also be a key event, they have two really good divers too. We beat them on the last relay last year and it should be a really intense meet again this year.”
Friday’s meet will be the fourth of ten meets in a row at WHS, including the Eagle Invitational on Jan 27. Due to scheduling, the Eagles won’t have to leave the luxury of their home pool until mid-February.
Schwartzman doesn’t mind hosting or the challenge of four meets in 12 days.
“It just kind of the way it worked out. The team came in very ready this season and they’re working hard. That gap between the first two meets was tough, especially with vacation, but now we’re at a point where we’ll have two meets every week and every practice is extra important.”
The hope is that after all the waves settle, the team will again be reigning supreme atop the conference standings prior to the state tournaments starting in March.
“They started talking about it at the end of last season,” Schwartzman said of recapturing the conference crown, “Winning is a big motivator. What get kids going in the water is winning and the drive to get better. There’s a drive to get better individually and then there’s the drive to get better as a team.”
Freshman Rory Stickley won the 200 yard individual medley in victory over Hall / Senior Blake Fulton
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin