Ridgefield has finished in the top-10 in the team standings at the State Open and Class LL boys swimming championships the past four seasons under coach Emmanuel Lanzo’s watch, yet Lanzo sees a little extra something in this year’s squad.
“I believe this is the deepest team that we’ve had in the five years I’ve been coaching,” Lanzo said. “In the past, we used to win four, or five races in a meet, but that wasn’t always enough to win. But right now, we have three, or four swimmers in each event who can score.”
Such depth in each event has enabled the Tigers to top the competition in nearly every dual meet. With one meet remaining in its dual meet season, Ridgefield sports a record of 8-1, with its only loss coming against Greenwich. Ridgefield is 18-1 dating back to last season, when it finished 10-0. Since the Tigers don’t have any divers on its squad this season, they know they must excel in each swim race.
“This is the first time in five years we don’t have any divers scoring, we are working on that for next season,” Lanzo said. “Knowing that we will struggle with diving, we needed to put together a team with some depth. In the past, depth was our weakness, but we have a lot of swimmers, who have been able to score so far this year.”
With Connor Hunt providing victories in the distance events, and the duo of Luke Hruska and Andrew Yu displaying their versatility, the Tigers have once again, been tough to beat and should be one of the teams to watch out for at the championship meets.
Hunt, a junior, won the 200 (1:41.20) and 500-yard (4:32.24) freestyle titles at the 2019 State Open and also touched the wall first in both races at last year’s Class LL finals. He will compete in the 800 freestyle at this year’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
“Connor can swim any race and is better than ever,” Lanzo said. “I don’t think there is anyone in the state faster than him in the 200 and 500 freestyle.”
Hruska, a senior, has built upon a junior season that saw him place among the top-15 finishers in he 200-yard individual medley and 100 butterfly at the 2019 State Open. He also had fifth and 10th-place finishes in the 200 IM and 100 butterfly, respectively at last winter’s Class LL championships.
Yu, who posted a third-place finish in the 100 backstroke at the State Open as a sophomore a year ago (52.59) and was 10th in the 100 freestyle (48.28), is also sparking the Tigers in the 50 freestyle this season.
Junior Matthew Johnston (distance freestyle events), junior Max Crowley (breaststroke), and Linney O’Malley (senior, butterfly, distance freestyle are among the Tigers’ standouts in the pool.
In 2019, Ridgefield finished an impressive third in the team standings at the State Open and second at the Class LL Championships. Next month’s class championships will feature a new look for the Tigers, however. Instead of competing in Class LL, they will test their skills in Class L. Their main competitors figure to be Darien, Xavier and New Canaan to name a few.
“Right now, we are trying to figure out what everyone’s roles are going to be at the championship meets,” Lanzo said. “We make our lineup out in ways to give everyone an opportunity to show their strengths. Our team right now, is happy, healthy and has the goal in mind of winning the Class L championship.”
XAVIER FALCONS SOARING
Xavier achieved a perfect 10 on Monday, improving its record to 10-0 with a 103-81 win over SCC rival Daniel Hand. It has indeed, been a season of impressive achievements for the Falcons. Besides defeated Hand, they recorded their first victory against SCC foe Fairfield Prep since 2003 and topped Amity for the first time in several seasons.
Xavier, which has one more regular season meet, will look to end Fairfield Prep’s reign of supremacy at the SCC Championships next month. Prep has claimed the team title at the SCC Championships the past 15 seasons and has won the regular season championship numerous years in a row.
“That’s been a big talking point for us this year — winning the SCC title,” Xavier coach Ronald Vaughan said. “It’s been a season of firsts for our team so far this season.”
Last winter, Xavier placed fourth at the Class L Championships and was 14th in the team standings at the State Open. The Falcons should contend for the Class L championship and be one of the squads to keep an eye on at the Open.
“We haven’t really talked much about the Class L meet, right now, we’re focusing on winning our last couple of meets and winning the SCC regular season title,” Vaughan said. “Then we’ll focus on the SCC championship meet. We are looking forward to the Class L meet. It’s at Wesleyan University, which is where we have our home meets, so it’s always an exciting meet for our team.”
Junior Andrew Mitchill, the defending Class L champion in the 500-yard freestyle, is once again leading the Falcons in the distance races. Mitchill won the 200 and 500-yard freestyle events against Daniel Hand this week and should help lead the squad during its championship meets.
Sophomore Mitchell Wollen was sixth in the 100 backstroke at the 2019 Class L finals and has excelled in both the backstroke and 200 individual medley. He has the team’s 100 backstroke record and posted a first-place finish in the 100 breaststroke against Daniel Hand (1:06.44).
Senior Ben Howell, who has committed to Hamilton College, sparks the Falcons in the 50 and 100 freestyle races, while junior Donald Frost is a standout in various events (100 freestyle, 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly). Frost was ninth and 12th, respectively, in the butterfly and 50 freestyle at last year’s Class L competition.
Yavier Carbo-Colon (senior), Adam Anziano (junior), Nikita Zuev (sophomore), Sam Enes (freshman) and Matthew Whitaker (freshman) and Nick Kirejczk (sophomore) are among the numerous competitors for the Falcons.
“The versatility of this team is really impressive,” Vaughan said. “Not a single kid goes worse than 1:00 in the 100 freestyle, which is very impressive. The energy in the pool each day is great. Everyone pushes each other in practice and works hard.
The kids want to get better in the pool, in the classroom and in any student activity the participate in.”
SWIMMING WITH A LOT OF HEART
Over the course of the season, swim teams in the SCC are participating in numerous events to raise money for Lion Heart — a foundation dedicated to finding a cure for breast cancer.
In partnership with the Breast Cancer of Yale-New Haven’s Smilow Cancer Hospital, Lion Heart provides funding to young researchers for new and promising breast cancer research.
Some teams have done lap-a-thons to raise money for the foundation, while others have held special relay days. On Tuesday, the North Haven/East Haven/North Branford/Guilford co-co-op team will do a relay event for a whole hour along with Amity and Lyman Hall to raise funds for Lion Heart.
“It has been a win/win for the SCC and it is a great way for young people to understand the importance of helping those who are less fortunate,” said North Haven/East Haven/North Branford/Guilford coach Martha Phelan, whose team will host the fundraiser at North Haven High School.
The swimmers will compete in relays for a full hour and the divers will dive for the hour during the fundraiser for Lion Heart, which was founded by Kathleen van Rijn in 2006, following her 2006 breast cancer diagnosis. Van Rijn, a two-time breast cancer survivor, is Phelan’s sister.
“I always like events like this,” Phelan said. “There is a lot of energy and the kids have a great time.”
Lion Heart, which sponsors the SCC Swimming Championships, has raised more than $1.3 million dollars since its inception. Last season, the boys SCC squads raised more than $33,000. Lion Heart Speedo caps donated by the organization are worn by the competitors during warm-ups of the conference championships.