The SCC girls swimming championships had a much different look this season, but a familiar victor emerged.
Cheshire, which entered the new-look season with eight consecutive SCC titles to its ledger, once again displayed its signature depth and added another conference championship to its collection.
Unlike seasons past, this year’s SCC championships didn’t include every team from the conference swimming together in the same meet. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, every squad swam virtually — by itself at its own venue on certain days.
Division I and Division II team champions were recognized, with the results from every squad in each division being combined to determine the SCC individual and team champions.
Cheshire captured its ninth straight SCC championship with a team score of 1,283 points. Lauralton Hall placed second in the team standings (882), followed by Amity (870.05), North Haven (700) and Lyman Hall (516).
Hamden (504), Jonathan Law (487), Guilford (483), Daniel Hand (385) and Foran (381.5) rounded out the top 10 SCC finishers.
The Rams also won the Division I team championship (1,336), with Lauralton Hall placing second (1,050), Amity third (1,021), North Haven fourth (894) and Jonathan Law fifth (700).
In Division II, Guilford earned top team honors (1,055), followed by Shelton (943) Foran, (903), Lyman Hall (838) and East Haven-Wilbur Cross (625).
“The virtual meets we were having this season weren’t necessarily exciting,” Cheshire coach Dave Modzelewski said. “The first one was exciting, because we were happy to have a meet, but after that, it was hard to race fast when your main goal is to beat your opponent next to you. But when it came down to the championship meet, our team banded together and we tried to create matchups to help everyone on our team push each other.”
In the 200-yard medley relay, Cheshire’s Nora Bergstrom, Emma Glover, Mary Barto and Julia Barto combined for a winning time of 1:50.00. Lyman Hall placed second (1:53.77), followed by Amity (1:53.79).
“We had three seniors and a freshman in that race,” Modzelewski said. “All of the seniors were ready to go and ready to race fast. Two of them were seniors that weren’t in relays too much in seasons past, so they got to step up and swim relays.”
The 200 freestyle saw Lauralton Hall junior Morgan Bagnall post a first-place finish with a time of 1:52.88. Bergstrom of Cheshire was the runner-up (1:54.84), Norah Rome of East Haven-Wilbur Cross was third (1:55.57) and Lauralton Hall’s Claire Kehley placed fourth (1:56.37).
Bagnall also touched the wall first in the SCC championships in the 500-yard freestyle, clocking in at 4:58.41.
“Morgan is pretty adaptable to different events, such as the freestyle races and 200 IM,” Lauralton Hall coach Paul Katz said. “She was outstanding in each event she competed in.”
Rome registered a second-place finish in the 500-yard freestyle (5:05.58), followed by Bergstrom (5:06.63), Kehley (5:08.69) and Amity’s Julia Snow (5:17.95).
Julia Barto, a freshman, was the SCC’s 200 individual medley champion (2:08.09). The Rams took the top four spots in the race, with Julianna Tyler (2:10.64), Glover (2:10.69) and Gabriella Tejeda (2:11.18) placing second through fourth. Caroline Krawec of Lyman Hall was fifth in the race (2:14.63).
“Finishing 1-2-3-4 in the 200 IM was crazy,” Modzelewski said. “That’s one of the events that we’re strong in, but watching that race was so exciting. We had each other to race against and I was so pumped up to see that our swimmers took first to fourth.”
Senior Sophie Murphy gave Cheshire winning SCC performances in the 50-yard freestyle (23.68) and 100 freestyle (51.44).
“Sophie had goals of breaking the team record in the 50 freestyle, which she did last year, and the 100 freestyle,” Modzelewski said. “In the 400 freestyle relay, she broke the team record with a split of 50.86.”
North Haven’s Maddie Bergin placed second in the 50-yard freestyle in 24.05, followed by Amity’s Katherine O’Connor (24.86). Elise Richardson of Lyman Hall took fourth (25.00), while Amanda Wojenski from Hamden was fifth (25.09).
Bergin, a senior, was also the runner-up in the 100 freestyle (52.04). Hamden senior Emma Panaroni finished third in the 100 freestyle with a time of 53.79, Cheshire’s Avery Potyrala was fourth (54.02) and Wojenski fifth (54.77).
This week, Bergin signed a national letter of intent to swim at Fordham University.
“Maddie is so excited, she wrapped up a stellar career this past Tuesday,” North Haven coach Martha Phelan said. “She is the ultimate athlete. She’s fearless and she is such a versatile swimmer.”
Bergin holds North Haven records in the 500 freestyle (5:05.08), 100 butterfly (59.07) and 200 freestyle (1:53.90).
“Maddie is the most standout swimmer I have ever had at North Haven High,” Phelan said. “Her high school career went by so quickly, it’s emotional.”
Natalie DeMatteo, a Cheshire senior, claimed the SCC diving title, amassing 392.75 points, while MaKenna Sharpe of Jonathan Law finished second (360.40) and Alyssa Cevero of Lyman Hall placed third (355.55).
Tyler (58.34) and Mary Barto (58.69) were first and second for Cheshire in the 100 butterfly. Grace Mahon from Amity finished third in the race (58.96) and O’Connor was fourth (59.57).
“Julianna and Mary came up big in the 100 butterfly,” said Modzelewski, who noted the members of the team psyched themselves up on the day they competed in the SCC championship events. “Since it was just us swimming, we did things a little bit different. We played music, announced who was swimming in every lane and tried to create a different atmosphere — we tried to create excitement.”
In the 100-yard backstroke, senior Vivian Freitas of Lauralton Hall claimed the SCC title in 58.13.
“Vivian was not only No. 1 in the backstroke overall, she’s performed well throughout the season,” Katz said. “Not only did she get the first spot in the SCC, she didn’t lose a backstroke event all season. In the 200 medley relay, her leadoff backstroke split was 27.4, which had to be fastest time in the meet.”
Panaroni’s second top-three performance came in the 100 backstroke, where she placed second in 1:00.36. Ava Keane of Daniel Hand was third (1:01.12), followed by Cheshire’s Ava Breton (1:01.81) and East Haven/Wilbur Cross’ Julia Rosado (1:01.95).
Glover won the 100 breaststroke (1:06.82), while teammate Julia Barto finished second in 1:07.51. Krawec of Lyman Hall finished third (1:07.71) and Mary Barto was fourth (1:08.19).
In the 400 freestyle relay, Murphy, Bergstrom, Tyler and Potyrala teamed up for a winning time of 3:34.26 Lauralton Hall’s Ashlyn Blessy, Bagnall, Kehley and Freitas were second in 3:43.10.
“This was a different meet in terms of it being a virtual championship,” Katz said. “Our swimmers stepped up to the challenge and swam well across the board.”
Modzelewski knows his athletes exceeded expectations.
“I was not expecting the times they posted,” he said. “They way overachieved from what I imagined them accomplishing. There are a lot of lifetime-best times that I didn’t see coming. It was nice to see kids who may have been overshadowed last year step up.”