SOUTHINGTON - Chase Galayda sat in physics class his freshman year and little did he know the head coach of the Southington boys swimming and diving team would be his teacher.
“I had noticed he was wearing a gymnastics t-shirt and I had mentioned to him if he had ever thought about diving,” said Evan Tuttle, the Blue Knights head coach. “He said he never really thought about it so I told him to come out for the team because he’d probably be a natural at it. Three years later, he’s in the position he is in now.”
Galayda finished eighth overall in Class LL on Tuesday with a score of 409.40, the highest anyone has ever finished in Tuttle’s tenure at Southington. The junior also broke a 28-year-old school record, originally set in 1990 for the six-dive format.
“It was a very long meet and there were a lot of kids that I have seen before that are really good,” Galayda said. “I honestly didn’t think I was going to place as high as I did or do as well as I did.”
Now, Galayda will have to wait until the Class M, L meets on Thursday to see if he moves on to the State Opens. If he reaches the State Opens, he has a goal of placing in the top 10.
“He has given himself a really good chance to do so,” Tuttle added. “Were very fortunate to have him and were very fortunate to have all five of our divers.”
And although Galayda is setting records now, the transition from gymnastics to diving was a bit difficult with some learning curves along the way.
“I have never landed on my head before,” Galayda said comparing the finishing techniques of the two sports. “I’ve always been landing on my feet. It was just a whole different style of how I had to do things.”
He’s also has teammates to push him along the way.
Diving can either make or break a meet and having a full card of divers to compete has helped. Southington is one of the three teams in the state to qualify five divers during last year’s meet, and did once more this season.
Along with Galayda, Nicholas Jefferson, EJ Suski, Kian Siadat and Ben Ragozzine also competed in trials Tuesday afternoon.
The Blue Knights were able send four out of their five to finals later on that evening. Suki finished in 14th place with a score of 316.60, Siadat finished with a score of 245.60 and Ragozzine finished with a score of 158.55.
“Diving is really a strong point for us, which is unique because we don’t have diving at our home facility,” Tuttle said. “Our divers go through the added adversity of practicing off sight at Plainville High School, while the swim team’s practicing at the Southington Y[MCA]. And in that aspect, I am very fortunate to have in my humble opinion, one of the best diving coaches in the area.”
That coach is Jan Zagorski, who has been the core of Southington’s dive team.
“She has done an outstanding job building up this diving program to where it is now,” Tuttle said.
Galayda added, “[Zagorski] has been really, really helpful. Before freshman year, I never stepped on a diving board before and now, I’m the eighth in the state.”
Diving has always been Southington’s “bright spot,” scoring extra points for the swim team. In a couple of instances, the divers have even given the Blue Knights the lead.
“Time and time again during this season, especially against our toughest competition they’ve saved the day,” Tuttle said. “I’m incredibly grateful for that and I know the remainder of the team is as well.”
Tuttle instills upon that everyone in their program that it is the swim AND dive team, everyone is essential to the program. It doesn't matter if you're a swimmer or a diver or whether you compete in heat one or heat two, if you’re diving exhibition or not, everyone is vital to this program. That is the cultural message within the Blue Knights team.
““We’ve been building this message for a while and we’ll continue to do so,” Tuttle said. “It’s something that needs to be endorsed and pursued in the program because we're all a part of the team.”
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org