WHS swim & dive captains (L-R) Nadia Baroni, Haley Krawczyk, Olivia Thompson, and Libby Rich, with head coach Lee Schwartzman
Records are meant to be broken and Wethersfield girls swimming and diving took that to another level this fall, shattering seven pool records and two varsity marks during a season unlike any other.
Veteran head coach Lee Schwartzman notoriously preps for every scenario and had to work overtime to prepare for a season without conference or state finals.
“I like to plan the whole season, but we started this season without a schedule. We didn’t even know when our first meet was going to be until week three or four and that was the difficult part,” recalled Schwartzman, who modified his strategy, “But one of the things we discussed in the very beginning was that we’ve never been able to have the whole team peaked on the same day together. This year, one of the things that I didn’t anticipate was how nice it was to have the whole team competing until the last day.”
The final day ended up being a home meet against Hall, featuring the two top teams in the conference. Schwartzman previously watched as Hall beat Conard in the season’s opener and knew his girls would need to be in tiptop shape heading into the finale.
Good thing for Schwartzman he had an experienced and deep team, featuring 10 seniors---led by captains Olivia Thompson, Libby Rich, Haley Krawczyk, and Nadia Baroni.
“We definitely approach [this season] with the mindset that we knew it was going to be different. We made the best of it and it was pretty much as normal as we could make it,” said Thompson, “We knew we wouldn’t have the competition that we would normally have, so having the goal of swimming fast to get those records helped us get that motivation and adrenaline going. It’s just another accomplishment that made this season great for us. We went into every practice and every meet like it was going to be our last.”
Thompson teamed with Sabrina Schuster, Julia Pitchell, and Alanna DePinto to twice break varsity and pool records in the 400 Freestyle Relay (3:37.28). She also holds the varsity record in the 50 Freestyle, which she set last season.
Rich, who is a distance specialist, adapted to the uncertain season, “It made it easier to stay present because the next day wasn’t guaranteed. Swimming is easier in that sense because it’s more of an individual sport, so you’re kind of competing against yourself in a sense and going for your best time. We wanted to get the most out of every single day.”
Team bonding also looked different and Krawczyk, who would normally have all the girls to her house for dinners, missed those close interactions, “There was a lot more bonding at practices because we had to make the most of every day. Any practice could be our last practice.
The records are just a bonus, I was just so thankful that we had a season.”
Nadia Baroni added the lack of team bonding out of the pool made mentoring the younger girls more difficult, “We’d normally have team gatherings when we would get to know them on a more personal level, but during captain’s practices in the beginning we got to know them more and it ended up working out in the end.”
Baroni added that her favorite high school moment occurred when the current seniors were freshmen, following a win over Glastonbury. At the time it was the Eagles first victory over the Tomahawks in 18 years and led to an undefeated 2017 season.
Entering the 2020 finale against Hall, the Eagles had a chance to duplicate that perfect season, which they did with a resounding with over the Warriors.
“As freshman they went undefeated and we thought it would be really cool if they could leave undefeated,” said Schwartzman, who increased the training each week to prepare for the final meet, “Hall was circled on calendar. That was our state championship, we put everything into that meet. The Hall meet was unbelievable.”
In preparation for Hall, Schwartzman used his white board to diagram a path to victory for his team. Krawczyk loved it, calling the strategy “super encouraging.”
“That’s one of my favorite memories,” recalled Schwartzman, who planned out exactly who needed to swim best times to win the meet, “After that they knew they were going to win, the meet was over. It was time drop after time drop after time drop.”
Thompson, Krawczyk, Pitchell, and DePinto kicked off the final meet by winning in the 200MR. Thompson later won the 50 and 500 Free (by 15 seconds), Pitchell won the 100 Fly, and DePinto breezed to victories in the 100 Free and 100 Breaststroke.
Once the waves had settled, the Eagles were again undefeated and atop the conference for a 12th time.
All told, the 2020 squad broke pool records in the 200 Medley Relay, 200 Free, 100 Fly, 100 Free, 200 Free Relay, and 400 Free Relay (twice in a week).
Pitchell, a senior, now holds the pool record in the 100 Fly (58.66).
DePinto, a junior, holds the pool record in the 200 Free and both the pool and varsity records in the 100 Free (53.07 / 52.66).
“She’s always been dominant but her practicing this year she was very consistent,” Schwartzman said of DePinto “She’s very competitive at practice all the time. Some kids are gameday, but she’s every day.”
The ten seniors, who swam all four years, will now leave WHS with perfect seasons to bookend their high school careers.
Schwartzman praised the seniors for pushing through this COVID-crazy season, “I can only imagine what it’s like. They did a phenomenal job. They saw what last year’s class missed and they realize they might miss out on that stuff too, like prom. It’s a whole year of loss, but at least they got this fall and I never got the feeling that we weren’t working for the end of season result.“
The win over Hall was the last at WHS for Thompson, Rich, Krawczyk, Baroni, Pitchell, Mia Destfefani, Madison King, Lindsay Pia, Riley Wilhelm, and Emily Wolf.
Thompson, who will swim at Fairfield University, said the team has grown close over the four years, “I remember my freshman year, I knew one or two girls coming in and now I can say I’m like best friends with every single one of them. We’ve grown a lot as teammates and as friends outside of the pool.”
“We’re super close. We all love each other,” added Krawczyk, “I’ve met some of my best friends through swimming.”
It was an unconventional year, without a true conference or state finals, and the girls asked Schwartzman if a conference championship banner would be hung along side the previous banners lining the walls around the pool.
His reply, “yes, it will say ‘Undefeated’.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin