NEW BRITAIN - Each new season brings with it a renewed sense of determination for the area boys swims teams.
Southington is coming off a winning season and brings back a number of key returnees to help the Blue Knights compete once again. Southington’s goal this year like every other year, is to advance as many athletes to the state tournament as possible.
The other three schools - Plainville, Newington and Berlin - have key contributors coming back as well, but also have to plenty of inexperience entering the fold.
The Blue Devils are expecting a massive incoming class of 11 swimmers including Joseph Michalic, Brandon Paznokas, Matt Lagassey, Brady Stevens and Nathan Lyman. Plainville head coach Chris Zagorski said in his five years coaching at Plainville, this is his largest team yet.
Crystal Connery will be taking over as head coach for the Newington boys swim team. Connery expects this to be a building year for the Indians, especially as they work to fill spots in the breaststroke events.
All four of the swim teams, however, are bringing in a core of freshmen swimmers that could bring great depth to the pool.
Here’s a closer look at the local teams:
Head Coach: Dan Thurston (7th season)
Last Year: 7-3 (2nd in the CCC South, 6th in the Class M meet)
Key Losses: Kevin Klotz, Tom Wejda, Steven Miano, Joey Leary, Quin Burns
Key Returnees: Andrew Leary (sr.), AJ DelGiorno (sr.), Michael Nielsen (sr.), Connor Recck (jr.)
Outlook: The Redcoats return a team that had a heavy senior and freshman presence last year. They are excited to see the large group of underclassmen start to step into roles that were held by that strong outgoing senior class.
Junior Connor Recck had a standout finish to his year last year in qualifying for the State Open in two events and finishing All-State in the 100 freestyle and is looking to build on that this year.
Berlin again, should be competitive in the conference this season and is looking forward to some exciting meets and swims throughout its schedule.
Head Coach: Evan Tuttle (8th season)
Last year: 10-0
Key Losses: Zack Blake, PJ Ramsey, Joe Saverese, Nick Kelley and Victoria Duszak
Key Returnees: Brendon Egan (sr.), Evan Bender (sr.), Ben Wakefield (sr.), Jacob Holbrook (sr.), Quint Kimmel (sr.), Tyler Heidgerd (soph.), Derek Melanson (soph.), Brian Egan (soph.), Sarah Meade (soph.), Chase Galayda (jr., diver) and EJ Suski (soph., diver)
Newcomers to Watch: Jackson Malsheske (fr.)
Outlook: The Blue Knights had a successful 2016 campaign, going 10-0. Southington did lose key nine seniors from last year’s team to graduation, including Class LL finalists Zack Blake, PJ Ramsey, Joe Saverese, Nick Kelley and Victoria Duszak.
Although the Blue Knights lost a significant amount of swimmers, there are an equal amount of key returners, along with 11 new freshmen who will be looking to make a big impact.
Returning to the pool will be seniors and State Open athletes Brendon Egan and Evan Bender. They are also joined by fellow seniors and LL qualifiers Ben Wakefield, Jacob Holbrook and Quint Kimmel.
Back for their sophomore year are LL qualifiers Tyler Heidgerd, Derek Melanson, Brian Egan and Sarah Meade. Class LL finalist divers Chase Galayda and EJ Suski are also back.
“Although the winter swim season is the longest season of any high school sport, we aim to make it as long as possible by advancing as far as possible,” Southington head coach Evan Tuttle said. “We have a strong core group of student athletes who have been working tirelessly in the off season to make this season their best yet.”
Head Coach: Crystal Connery (1st year)
Last Year: 3-6-1
Key Losses: Michael Allo
Key Returnees: Robert Nagy (sr.), Sean Abrams (sr.), Maksym Ugrak (jr.,), John Famiglietti (diver)
Outlook: Crystal Connery will be taking over as head coach of the Newington boys swim team and sees this season as a rebuilding year for the Indians, especially as they work to fill spots in the breaststroke events after graduating its lead 200 breaststroker Michael Allo.
But there will be some key pieces returning such as senior sprinter Robert Nagy, senior backstroker Sean Abrams, junior flyer Maksym Ugrak and diver John Famiglietti.
Overall as a team, however, Connery said Newington will be focusing on personal best times as well as growing throughout the season.
Head Coach: Chris Zagorski (6th season)
Last Year: 3-8
Key Losses: Lorenzo Samperi, Isaiah Bandle
Key Returnees: Taegan Brochu (sr.), Bryan Buckley (sr.), Graham Eyres (sr.), Kyle Sullivan (jr.), Tyler St Onge (jr.) and Marcos Gutierrez (jr.), Josh Donaghy (sr.)
Newcomers to Watch: Joseph Michalic, Brandon Paznokas, Matt Lagassey, Brady Stevens and Nathan Lyman
Outlook: The Blue Devils usually tend to be one of the smaller teams in their conference and tend to focus on just qualifying for states.
That, however, could change a little bit this season as Plainville has a strong freshman class coming in and joining a number of key veterans swimmers. This will be the fourth straight season, the Blue Devils have grown the number of swimmers on their team under head coach Chris Zagorski and the largest the coach has had to date, which should only prove beneficial.
“This will lead to more competition for varsity spots, which should raise the team's ability to compete as a whole,” Zagorski said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how the team does as we go into our dual meet season.”
But Zagorski also has a number of veterans he can rely on. Returning for Plainville will be senior 100 butterfly state finalist Taegan Brochu, senior state finalist for one meter diving Bryan Buckley as well as juniors Kyle Sullivan, Tyler St. Onge and Marcos Gutierrez. Goodwin Tech’s Josh Donaghy - a medalist at the state meet last season - also returns.
Overall, this should be an interesting year for the Blue Devils and a team to keep an eye on.
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org