MIDDLETOWN —From an undefeated regular season, to claiming the FCIAC championship, to capturing the Class L title – indeed, the season just keeps getting more thrilling for the Darien girls swimming team.
Title No. 2 in its season came Wednesday night for Darien, which rode a Blue Wave of momentum throughout the meet, behind one impressive swim after another.
Making its mark in each event, Darien placed first in the team standings at the CIAC Class LL Championships, amassing 778 points, before a packed house at Wesleyan University.
“Exhilarating is the word I would use to describe this feeling,” Darien senior Lexi Punishill said. “We’ve had a couple of difficult years after we won states as freshmen and we came into this season as underdogs. But we put in a tremendous amount of effort and hard work in the pool each day and we’ve accomplished our goals.”
The victory gave the Blue Wave their first Class L team title since the 2016 season – when this season’s seniors were freshmen. Darien placed second in the team standings at the Class LL Championships the past two seasons.
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“As the season went on, we all realized how well we work together and we knew we were determined to go after the same goals,” Darien senior Sloane Latimer said. “We wanted to do it for Marj (Trifone), our coach. Finishing undefeated during the regular season set the tone of our season, then we won the FCIAC title before this, which gave us a lot of momentum.”
Behind two first-place finishes from Emma Babashak, Wilton placed second in the team standings (720 points), while New Canaan placed third (546.5). Wethersfield was fourth (415) and Pomperaug finished fifth (333.5) in the 20-team meet.
Wilton opened the meet by winning the 200-yard medley relay. The quartet of freshman Ava Fasano, sophomore Avery Newcomer, Babashak, a senior and sophomore Carolyn Hendricks combined for a winning time 1:48.25. Darien placed second in 1:49.31, followed by New Canaan (1:50.06).
— Greenwich Time Spts (@GreenwichSports) November 21, 2019
Darien junior Kendall Luecke won the meet’s first individual event, posting a time of 1:53.24 in the 200-yard freestyle. Conard senior Natalie Chernysh was the runner-up in 1:56.87 and Wethersfield senior Abigail Keane took third with a time of 1:56.89.
Maggie Sedlack, a Darien sophomore, finished fourth in the 200 freestyle (1:57.12), followed by New Milford sophomore Sarah Falder (1:57.19).
“Winning this title is an incredible feeling for team,” Luecke said. “I did not think we would come close to being in this position going into the season. I’m happy with my times and I just hope to swim as best as I could at states and hopefully, get better times.”
The 200 individual medley saw Wilton senior Ellen Holmquist top the competition, posting a time of 2:06.49. Olivia Herbert from Immaculate-Bethel was the runner-up (2:09.20) and Grace Farris (Enfield-Somers) took third (2:10.95). Freshman Meg Erickson of Darien placed sixth.
“Looking at the pool with all my teammates cheering for me really helped me in that race,” Holmquist said.
Swimming at Wesleyan was familiar territory for Holmquist.
“I have been swimming at this pool since I was a freshman and I really like competing here,” Holmquist said. “It’s a really exciting atmosphere. Now I hope to get my personal-best times at the State Open.”
The CIAC State Open Swimming Championships takes place Sunday at Yale University, with a starting time of 2 p.m. The finals of each class meet served as a qualifier for Sunday’s State Open.
In the 50-yard freestyle on Wednesday night, freshman Natalia Ferranto gave her Blue Wave squad a first-place finish and 30 team points by winning the event in 24.08 seconds. Wethersfield junior Olivia Thompson finished second in 24.24 and right behind her was Fasano of Wilton (24.33). Punishill placed fifth for the Blue Wave (24.77).
The 100-yard butterfly was one of the meet’s most exciting races. Babashak touched the wall first, posting a winning time of 57.47 seconds.
“I couldn’t have done it without my teammates,” Babashak said. “This is the largest high school team that I’ve been on, with 40 something people on the team and we all inspire each other. I just put my head down and swam as fast as I could.”
The 200 medley relay sparked the Warriors from the start.
“That was the fastest our team has finished in that event,” Babashak said. “On the starting blocks, we were pumping each other up and we couldn’t wait to get started.”
Alexandra Mehos, a New Canaan senior, placed second in 58.00 and Julia Pitchell of Wethersfield was third (58.09). Darien received a fourth-place finish from junior Hope Murray (58.60) in the 100 butterfly.
“We lost a good group of seniors from last season’s team, so we didn’t know what to expect coming into this season,” Trifone said. “This is a tribute to the kids, they never let down all season. As we started to swim in our dual meets, we began to see the potential we had. This year, we’ve also had some swimmers come out of nowhere like Hope Murray.”
The 100-yard freestyle was also a neck-and-neck race. Alanna DePito from Wethersfield garnered the first place medal (52.88) and a blink of an eye behind her was Punishill of Darien (52.90). Wethersfield’s Olivia Thompson took third in the 100 freestyle (53.59).
Babashak claimed her second winner’s medal, registering a first-place time 5:05.30 and Jasmine Uricchio of Enfield-Somers was the runner-up in 5:08.34. Conard senior Kate Bell finished third (5:09.50), followed by Abigail Keane (Wethersfield, 5:09.58) and New Milford sophomore Sarah Falder (5:10.85).
Darien’s foursome of Punishill, senior Sloane Latimer, Ferranto and Luecke combined for a first-place time of 1:37.76 in the 200 freestyle relay. New Canaan junior Maddie Haley earned the gold medal in the 100 backstroke, clocking in at 56.02. Wilton’s Fasano placed second in 58.35 and Blue Wave junior Olivia Golden had a third-place finish (58.43).
“It’s really rewarding to see all the hard work I’ve been putting in pay off,” Haley said. “I was a little nervous, because there was a delay before the race. This was my best time, which I was determined to get at this meet. I got my best time here last year too.”
Holmquist’s second individual victory came in the 100 breaststroke (1:06.76). Caroline Krawec of Lyman Hall was second, followed by Abigayle Bleil from New Canaan and Newcomer of Wilton.
Darien ended the meet in style, with Punishill, Latimer, Golden and Luecke winning the 400 freestyle relay in 3:33.65.
SWIMMERS OF THE MEET
Holmquist and Babashak each won two individual events for Wilton. Babashak also swam on the Warriors’ winning 200 medley relay team. Luecke had a individual victory and competed on Darien’s championship 200 and 400 freestyle relay squads.
“At the start of the season, we felt we were underdogs,” said Darien senior Emma Mansourian, who is one of the captains. “But we put in a lot of time and energy throughout the season and it has all paid off. Going undefeated, then winning FCIACs and Class L are big accomplishments.”