MIDDLETOWN — After ruling the pool at the CIAC Class L girl swimming finals the past two seasons, it was time for a new challenge for Cheshire, which moved up to Class LL this season, due to increased school enrollment.
As Tuesday’s eye-opening performances at the Class LL Swimming Championships showed, the Rams more than met their challenge.
Displaying its depth, Cheshire swam to the head of Class LL, amassing 655 points to capture the team title at Wesleyan University.
The Rams won the Class LL championship in 2009, before moving to Class L and then back up to Class LL this fall. Greenwich, which had won the Class LL title nine consecutive seasons was the runner-up (586), followed by Staples (475), Glastonbury (469) and Hall (362).
“Since the beginning of the season, we knew that we were going to have a different challenge, since we moved up to Class LL,” Cheshire coach Dave Modzelewski said. “We knew we were going to face top-tier Class LL teams such as Greenwich, Staples and Ridgefield and that it was going to be a tough battle. Once this team gets a goal in mind, they achieve it and I am so proud of the performances I saw tonight from everyone.”
Julia Stevens and Sophie Murphy won two individual events apiece for the champion Rams. Stevens topped the competition in the 200 and 500-yard freestyle races, while Murphy touched the wall first in the 50 and 100 freestyle events.
“Winning this title is really exciting,” Julia Stevens said. “At the beginning of the season, we were skeptical about states, but we showed what we are capable of doing. “After preliminaries, where we also swam really well, we were excited to see what we could do at finals tonight.”
The meet commenced with Greenwich winning the 200-yard medley relay. The quartet of Samantha Ennis, Meghan Lynch, Caterina Li and Jenna Handali combined for a winning time of 1:46.20.
“That was a great way for us to start the meet,” GHS coach Lorrie Hokayem said. “Everyone swam their best splits and that set us up nicely for a great meet and gave us some momentum. Hats off to Cheshire, they’re a great team and they had a very impressive meet.”
Cheshire’s team of Jillian Stevens, Tori Newton, Julia Stevens and Sarah Chen placed a blink of an eye behind in second in 1:46.93. Trumbull took third (1:47.35), followed by Glastonbury (1:47.83).
Cheshire senior Julia Stevens claimed the 200-yard freestyle title, touching the wall in 1:52.31. Stevens opened a lead in the third lap on her way to the win. Ridgefield junior Rylie Giles was the runner-up (1:53.15) and Cheshire junior Nora Bergstrom placed third in 1:54.01. Staples senior Morgan Lenoce (1:55.07) and Hall junior Emma Nordquist (1:55.38) rounded out the top-five in the 200 freestyle.
“The 200 freestyle was really exciting, for Nora and I to finish third and first was great to see,” Julia Stevens said. “We practice against each other each day, so that was a nice way to start out the meet.”
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In an exciting race, Lynch of Greenwich registered a first-place finish in the 200-yard individual medley, clocking in at 1:59 – a state and Class LL record time. Taking a slight lead in the backstroke and butterfly leg, Lynch increased it a bit in the freestyle en route to winning the race.
Trumbull sophomore Lauren Walsh finished second in the 200 IM (2:01.82) and Hall senior Aislinn Mitchell placed third in 2:06.75. Ennis, a Greenwich junior, was fourth in 2:10.14 and Cheshire freshman Julianna Tyler finished fifth (2:11.25).
“It was a fun race, she (Walsh) beat me at the FCIAC meet, so I knew it was going to be close,” Lynch said. “It is nice to have someone like that next to you pushing you to be at your best. It gets your adrenaline going and pumps you up. I was really excited for that race.”
The 50-yard freestyle saw Cheshire junior Sophie Murphy post a winning time of 23.88 seconds. Right behind her was runner-up Esme Hunter, a Staples senior, (24.07). Riley Kudlac, a Glastonbury freshman, took third (24.29), while Amity sophomore Katherine Emerick O’Connor (24.53) and Trumbull senior Mia Zayac (24.57) were fourth and fifth, respectively.
“From the beginning of the season, our goal was to get top three at states,” Murphy said. “Since the first day of practice, we have been pushing each other to do our best. Everyone went out there tonight and all season and swam for the team, putting the team first.”
Said Hunter: “That was my first time competing in the 50 freestyle in my high school career at a championship meet. I knew I had to have a perfect start, make good turns, strong breakouts and a fast finish.”
Junior Hannah Seward from Ridgefield claimed the winner’s medal in the 100 butterfly, notching a time of 55.14 seconds. Close behind was Hall’s Mitchell (55.76).
“My goal was to attack the underwaters and go as fast as I can,” said Mitchell, who was part of her team’s 200 medley relay squad, which set a school record at the meet. “Meets like this definitely make you go faster.”
Murphy captured her second first-place finish, winning the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 51.11. In one of the closest races of the meet, Seward came right back after swimming the 100 butterfly and finished second for Ridgefield in 51.86 in the freestyle. Fairfield Ludlowe senior Lily Kernaghan was third in 52.47. Kudlac was fourth for Glastonbury (52.87) and Lenoce finished fifth for the Wreckers (53.48).
“It was definitely challenging swimming back-to-back events,” Seward said. “My coach helped me get through it. I felt really good in both events and I’m happy with my times.”
After the 100 freestyle, Cheshire held a 363-336 lead on Greenwich in the team standings. Staples was third with a team score of 313, following the 100 freestyle.
Stevens garnered her second gold medal for the Rams, recording a winning time of 4:58.14 in the 500-yard freestyle. Giles placed a very close second in 4:58.80 and Bergstrom of Cheshire was third (5:05.47). Trumbull freshman Hope Ivanovich had a fourth-place finish in the 500 freestyle (5:12.04) and Hall junior Emma Nordquist placed fifth (5:12.08).
Staples received a winning effort from its 200 freestyle relay team of Hunter, senior Anne Bowens, sophomore Jessica Qi and Lenoce. The foursome combined for a first-place time of 1:37.85. Cheshire earned the second-place medal (1:38.80).
Hunter won the 100 backstroke (56.23) followed by Ennis (56.26) and Jillian Stevens (57.58).
“Coming off the 200 freestyle, I had so much excitement and energy flowing through my body,” said Hunter, who will swim at Bucknell next year. “I just wanted to go out there and continue my streak in that event.”
Ennis was an eye blink behind Hunter for the top spot.
“That was a really exciting race, I knew it was going to be a close race going into it, because we were close a trials,” Ennis said. “I am excited about competing in the State Open on Sunday, hopefully, I can even improve my times.”
Walsh took top honors in the 100 breaststroke (1:02.40), with Lynch finishing second (1:02.57) in another neck-and-neck race. Greenwich ‘s Caterina Li was third in the 100 breaststroke.
“I was really nervous, the last 25 yards, my arms were numb,” Walsh said. “I was so tired, but I did my best to keep going, I felt like I was swimming backwards. Megan beat me in the 2 IM, so it’s really rewarding to get the win in the breaststroke.”
Cheshire put the finishing touch on their meet to remember, taking first in the 400 freestyle relay
“It is really fun, especially since it is my senior year,” Jillian Stevens said. “It is nice to make it three in a row and this is our first time in Class LL, which makes it even more special. Going into trials, we knew we had to do a lot of work to give ourselves a chance to win and we all did so well.”
SWIMMERS OF THE MEET
Murphy and Julia Stevens each won two individual events. They were also part of the Rams’ winning 400 freestyle relay. Lynch’s state and class record in the 200 individual medley was also one of the meet’s highlights.
“We swam really well, we had great swims,” Hokayem said. “Samantha Ennis was fantastic in the 200 IM and 100 backstroke, Caterina Li had a great meet and Meghan (Lynch) was outstanding as always.”
Said Sophie Murphy: “We are all so excited for the State Open at Yale. It’s such a great venue, with stadium seating and I really like that pool. Winning the State Open title is definitely a goal of ours.”
CLASS LL GIRLS SWIMMING CHAMPIONSHIP
Cheshire 655; 2. Greenwich 586; 3. Staples 475; 4. Glastonbury 469; 5. Hall 362; 6. Ridgefield 321.5; 7. Amity 318.5; 8. Trumbull 294; 9. Norwalk-McMahon 236; 10. Southington 214; 11. Newtown 206; 12. Hamden 188; 13. Warde 187; 14. East Haven-Cross 154; 15. Ludlowe 143; 16. Westhill-Stam. 139; 17. East Hartford 85; 18. Manchester 72; 19. West Haven 58; 20. NFA 47.
200 Yard Medley Relay: 1. Greenwich (Samantha Ennis, Meghan Lynch, Caterina Li, Jenna Handali), 1:46.20; 2. Cheshire (Jillian Stevens, Tori Newton, Julia Stevens, Sarah Chen), 1:46.93; 3. Trumbull (Mia Zajac, Lauren Walsh,
Ashleigh Piro, Julia Nevins), 1:47.35; 4. Glastonbury (Carleigh Motycka, Norell Paluska, Avery Kudlac, Riley Kudlac), 1:47.83; 5. Hall (Jacqueline Fox, Meghan Tiernan, Aislinn Mitchell, Kali Dominguez), 1:48.21; 6. Staples (Esme Hunter, Anne Bowens, Ella Alpert, Sophia Mechanic), 1:48.53.
200 Yard Freestyle: 1. Julia Stevens, Cheshire, 1:52.31; 2. Rylie Giles, Ridgefield, 1:53.15; 3. Nora Bergstrom, Cheshire, 1:54.01; 4. Morgan Lenoce, Staples, 1:55.07; 5. Emma Nordquist, Hall, 1:55.38; 6. Norah Rome, East Haven-Cross, 1:55.74.
200 Yard IM: 1. Meghan Lynch, Greenwich, 1:59.13; 2. Lauren Walsh, Trumbull, 2:01.82; 3. Aislinn Mitchell, Hall, 2:06.75; 4. Samantha Ennis, Greenwich, 2:10.14; 5. Julianna Tyler, Cheshire, 2:11.25; 6. Gabriella Tejeda, Cheshire, 2:11.55.
50 Yard Freestyle: 1. Sophie Murphy, Cheshire, 23.88; 2. Esme Hunter, Staples, 24.07; 3. Riley Kudlac, Glastonbury, 24.29; 4. Katherine Emerick O’Connor, Amity, 24.53; 5. Mia Zajac, Trumbull, 24.57; 6. Anne Bowens, Staples, 24.72.
100 Yard Butterfly: 1. Hannah Seward, Ridgefield, 55.14; 2. Aislinn Mitchell, Hall, 55.76; 3. Katherine Emerick O’Connor, Amity, 57.45; 4. Avery Kudlac, Glastonbury, 57.46; 5. Maggie Mantz, Hall, 57.62; 6. Meghan Hammarlund, Southington, 58.68.
100 Yard Freestyle: 1. Sophie Murphy, Cheshire, 51.11; 2. Hannah Seward, Ridgefield, 51.86; 3. Lily Kernaghan, Ludlowe, 52.47; 4. Riley Kudlac, Glastonbury, 52.87; 5. Morgan Lenoce, Staples, 53.48; 6. Jessica Qi, Staples, 54.26.
500 Yard Freestyle: 1. Julia Stevens, Cheshire, 4:58.14; 2. Rylie Giles, Ridgefield, 4:58.80; 3. Nora Bergstrom, Cheshire, 5:05.47; 4. Hope Ivanovich, Trumbull, 5:12.04; 5. Emma Nordquist, Hall, 5:12.08; 6. Julia Ann Snow, Amity, 5:14.23.
200 Yard Freestyle Relay: 1. Staples (Esme Hunter, Anne Bowens, Jessica Qi, Morgan Lenoce), 1:37.85; 2. Cheshire (Avery Potyrala, Sarah Chen, Nora Bergstrom, Sophie Murphy), 1:38.30; 3. Glastonbury (Norell Paluska, Caroline Cermignani, Brooke Sowka, Riley Kudlac), 1:38.79; 4. Newtown (Caroline Mahoney, Norah Kolb, Payton Bradley, Shayna Millard), 1:40.27; 5. Amity (Katherine Emerick O’Connor, Grace Neala Mahon, Emma Grace Tirollo, Julia Ann Snow), 1:40.38; 6. Greenwich (Samantha Ennis, Lilly Bjerke, Emma Robinson, Victoria Liu), 1:40.74.
100 Yard Backstroke: 1. Esme Hunter, Staples, 56.23; 2. Samantha Ennis, Greenwich, 56.26; 3. Jillian Stevens, Cheshire, 57.58; 4. Lily Kernaghan, Ludlowe, 57.92; 5. Jacqueline Fox, Hall, 57.98; 6. Emma Panaroni, Hamden, 58.70.
100 Yard Breaststroke: 1. Lauren Walsh, Trumbull, 1:02.40; 2. Meghan Lynch, Greenwich, 1:02.57; 3. Caterina Li, Greenwich, 1:07.13; 4. Emma Glover, Cheshire, 1:07.65; 5. Rachel Davis, Glastonbury, 1:08.21; 6. Caroline Petropoulos, Norwalk-McMahon, 1:08.28.
400 Yard Freestyle Relay: 1. Cheshire (Avery Potyrala, Nora Bergstrom, Julia Stevens, Sophie Murphy), 3:31.33; 2. Greenwich (Meghan Lynch, Jenna Handali, Victoria Liu, Caterina Li), 3:33.35; 3. Glastonbury (Brooke Sowka, Caroline Cermignani, Carleigh Motycka, Avery Kudlac), 3:36.45; 4. Staples (Jessica Qi, Sophia Mechanic, Hannah Strauss, Morgan Lenoce), 3:36.90; 5. Ridgefield (Rylie Giles, Juliette Castagna, Riley Riebling, Hannah Seward), 3:40.06; 6. Amity (Julia Ann Snow, Grace Neala Mahon, Emma Grace Tirollo, Katherine Emerick O’Connor), 3:42.17.