The postseason is rapidly approaching, with the trials of the SCC Swimming Championships taking place on Monday
Led by Sam Hanke, Cheshire is one of numerous teams that should make quite a splash at the ultra-competitive meet.
Following a stellar regular season in which it registered a record of 10-3, Cheshire is aiming its sights high at the SCC Championships, which includes undefeated Xavier and 15-time defending champion Fairfield Prep.
“I am very happy with the team’s performance and I feel we are going to have a better performance at SCCs and states,” Rams coach Kevin Reeder said. “This is the best group that I’ve ever had as far as not only swimmers, but people who listen and follow the plan each day. They are a solid group of swimmers, who give everything they have.”
Hanke is one competitor in particular who has given plenty to the Rams program since he was a freshman. Heading to the University of South Carolina’s Division I swimming program, Hanke, a senior captain, has been a model of consistency during his time on the squad.
“I have enjoyed coaching Sam, he’s a hard worker and excellent leader,” Reeder said. “He is a really good student and an all-around great person to have on the team.”
Primed for the postseason meets, Hanke finished second in the 100-yard backstroke at the 2019 State Open with a time of 51.33 seconds and placed 11th in the 200 freestyle (1:44.35). He led off the Rams’ 200 freestyle relay squad that placed third in 1:27.52 and the 200 medley relay, that was seventh (1:37.74) at last year’s State Open.
At the 2019 Class L finals, Hanke was fourth in the 200 freestyle (1:43.46) and was the runner-up in the 100 backstroke (51.80).
“Sam has great belief in himself and what his coaches are telling him,” Reeder said. “He has a different level that he can go to in races and he is also seeing the results of the hard work he is putting in practice and has become the swimmer I envisioned him being when he joined the team as a freshman.”
A versatile competitor, who also swims throughout the year for the Cheshire Y/Sea Dog Swim Club, Hanke has sparked the Rams in the 500 freestyle and relay races.
“He is one of the go-to guys on the relays,” said Reeder, who returned to the team following a one-season hiatus.
Reeder spent four seasons as Cheshire’s coach before stepping down prior to the 2019-20 season. An employee at ESPN for nearly 10 years, Reeder served as the producer of the network’s First Take show, which conflicted with his coaching hours.
Megan McGorry took over the Rams’ coaching reigns last winter, guiding the squad to a third-place finish in team standings at the Class L Championships and 11th-place showing at the State Open. A career change forced McGorry to step down from her coaching role at Cheshire after just one season and back came Reeder, who has a new role at ESPN.
“I took over as manager of SportsCenter,” Reeder said. “I work a night shift from 4 p.m. to 3 a.m., which allows me to go to Bristol, after practice. It’s only a 15-minute ride for me. The good part is I feel I am a better performer at ESPN, because I am going there after doing something so rewarding like coaching.”
Complementing Hanke in the Rams’ swim lineup is Justin Finkel. The junior has aided the squad in the 200 freestyle, 500 freestyle, 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley.
“He has turned into the swimmer I always knew he could be,” Reeder said of Finkel. “He is exactly what you are looking for as one of the leaders of the team and I think he’s going to be a big point scorer for us at the SCC meet and the state level.”
Sophomores Eddie Chen (200 IM, 100 breaststroke) and Vince Zhu (100 breaststroke, several events) have also paced the Rams.
“We are going to need a lot of our swimmers to step up at the SCC and state meets, as they have been doing all season,” Reeder said. “They are going to be very interesting meets. Prep has won a lot of SCC championships in a row (15) and Xavier is going to be a force to reckon with all the way to the State Open. I would say a top-two performance at the SCC meet, finishing among the top-10 teams at the State Open and the top-three at states (Class L) would be our goals.”
FALCONS, CARDINALS SOAR TO UNDEFEATED SEASONS
Xavier recently capped one of its most successful seasons in program history, with a 95-83 win over Notre Dame-West Haven. The Falcons finished the season with a record of 12-0 for coach Ronald Vaughan.
In Xavier’s regular-season ending win against Notre Dame-West Haven, Ben Howell won two individual events, finishing first in the 200 freestyle (1:49.29) and 100 freestyle (49.88). He was also part of Xavier’s winning 200 (1:33.65) and 400 (3:29.97) freestyle relay teams.
Andrew Mitchell (50 freestyle, 22.22), Donald Frost (100 butterfly, 53.85), Mitchell Wollen (100 backstroke, 55.17) and Samuel Enes (2:07.33) each won their respective events for Xavier in the meet.
Greenwich also finished its dual-meet season at 12-0. The Cardinals, who have won the State Open and Class LL titles every year since 2013, beat an improving Norwalk/McMahon squad in its regular-season finale, 102-60.
Victorious in their respective events for the Cardinals were Tom Cass (200 freestyle, 1:47.20), Thomas Lewis (200 IM, 1:58.49), Whitaker Grover (diving), Ryan Jee (100 butterfly, 53.55), Alex Plavoukos (500 freestyle, 4:51.80) and Ben Schinto (100 backstroke, 56.56).
A RECORD FOR NORWALK/MCMAHON SENIOR
Chris Dauser set a team record in winning the 100-yard breaststroke in Norwalk/McMahon’s recent meet against host Greenwich.
Dauser touched the wall in the 100 breaststroke in a team record time of 59.50 seconds.
“He has been chasing that record four years that he’s been on this team,” Norwalk/McMahon coach Marco Minnocci said. “We were excited to face Greenwich at their pool at the end of the season. It gives us a chance of what to expect at the FCIAC Championships.”
The trials of the SCC Championships takes place Monday at Cheshire Community Pool at 4 p.m. The finals of the SCC Championships are scheduled for Wednesday at Southern Connecticut State University at 4:30 p.m. In diving, the SCC finals takes place Friday at Sheehan High School at 5:30 p.m.
In the FCIAC, the trials are set for Tuesday at Greenwich High School at 5:30 p.m. The finals of the FCIAC Championships are slated for Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Divers will compete in the FCIAC Championships on Wednesday at Westhill High School (4:30 p.m.).
The SWC Championships will be held on March 6 at Masuk at 5 p.m. and the SWC diving finals will take place on Wednesday at Pomperaug High School at 6 p.m.
The finals of the NVL Swimming Championships are scheduled for Tuesday at John F. Kennedy High School at 5 p.m. The trials are Saturday at 11 a.m. at Kennedy.