AVON >> Competing in high school swimming has never been particularly easy in Connecticut, especially if your town doesn’t have its own swim facility.
It hasn’t stopped Avon, which has had a boys swimming team since 1986. But there is an additional challenge for this year’s team – a long commute to Cromwell to practice and train.
Without your own facility, you’re at the mercy of others. Rental fees can be expensive and a team’s practices and meets are at the convenience of the owner of the swim facility. If you’re fortunate, you can work out an arrangement with a facility near your school.
For the last seven seasons, the Avon High boys swim team had a pretty good deal. They rented time from Miss Porter’s School in Farmington for practice and to host several dual meets during the season.
But last summer, Miss Porter’s declined to renew their lease with Avon, forcing the Falcons to search for another place to practice and hold meets.
There are several facilities in the area, but there are plenty of high school and private swim teams looking to rent the pools. Most facilities have two or three teams that call their pools home. And businesses, like the Farmington Valley YMCA for example, have to make sure they have time for the general public and the paying programs that keep their business going.
Avon was able to secure a place to practice this winter – the New England Athletic Club in Cromwell, which is about 30 minutes away.
The Falcons practice five nights a week. On Monday night, there is a two-hour workout until 8:30 p.m. On Tuesday through Thursday, practice is 90 minutes from 7 to 8:30 p.m. and on Friday, practice is a 90-minute session that ends at 8 p.m.
“The team is smaller,” Avon High coach Diana Cesaro said. “Some kids don’t want to spend four hours a night on a sport (travel and practice time).”
Without its own facility, Avon has never had a true home meet. But Miss Porter’s was close and a familiar place to watch a few “home” meets a year. Now, the Falcons will be true road warriors.
The Cromwell facility is fine for practice but it isn’t deep enough for a meet and there isn’t enough deck space.
In its remaining 14 meets, Avon will be going to 12 different pools. The Falcons will have “home” meets against Berlin at Maloney High in Meriden on Feb. 4 and against Sacred Heart at Plainville High on Feb. 11.
Still, the mood around the team is positive, Cesaro said.
“The team looks stronger so we will work hard and succeed,” she said. “We’re a traveling team. But we’re here, we are working hard. We are laughing and having fun. If swimming isn’t fun, then the kids won’t want to work hard for it.”
The top swimmer is sophomore Riley Strassner, who earned a pair of top five finishes at last spring’s Class M boys swimming championships. He was fourth in the 100 meter freestyle, setting a new school record of 48.33 seconds, and took fifth in the 200 freestyle. He was 12th in the state in the 200 free at the State Open and 16th in the 100 freestyle.
Seniors William Holloman (breast stroke), Devon Chambers, Fabrizio Tropea (freestyle), Kathryn Emery (back stroke), Mimi Murphy (diving) and Erin Hartigan (individual medley) look to be making a splash for the Falcons.
Last winter, Murphy set two new school records (girls) in diving (six dives, 11 dives).
Hartigan (200 IM), Strassner (100 butterfly), Holloman (100 breast stroke), Emery (100 backstroke) and Murphy (diving) were individual winners in Avon’s 103-66 win over Holy Cross in December. The 200 IM relay team (Emery, Holloman, freshman Matthew Bagley, Chambers) also won along with the 200 free team of Holloman, Bagley, Chambers and Strassner.
Girls are part of the team. The CIAC holds its girls swimming season in the fall but because Avon does not have a girls swimming team, the girls are allowed to compete on the boys team.
Girls can participate in the CIAC state championship meets in March but they must qualify under the boys times. Emery did qualify to swim at the Class M finals a year ago and finished 17th in the 100 backstroke.
The Falcons will be looking to win the Splash Classic, the unofficial state championship meet for girls around the state that compete during the winter season with the boys teams. Avon has won the Splash Classic for seven straight years.
Other seniors on the team include Chenyong Liu, Darshyn Mundair, Jake Ernst, Joseph Henneberry, Kevin Rosato, Kylie Panczner, Sabrina Cintra, Sam Mallery, Sean Neagle, Sophie Greenbaum and Stephen DelGallo.
Jan. 3: at Conard (Cornerstone), 7 p.m.; Jan. 7: at Shepaug, 4:30 p.m.; Jan. 10: at Hall (Cornerstone), 3:30 p.m.; Jan. 14: at Haddam-Killingworth, 4; Jan. 17: at Watertown, 6; Jan. 22: at Granby (Farm Valley YMCA), 7:45 p.m.; Jan. 24: at Bristol (Dennis Malone Aquatic Cnt), 4 p.m.; Jan. 29: at Torrington (Torrington YMCA), 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 31: at Middletown, 4 p.m.
Feb. 4: vs. Berlin at Maloney-Meriden, 5:30 p.m; Feb. 7: at Farmington (Miss Porter’s), 7; Feb. 11: vs. SACRED HEART at Plainville HS, 3:45 p.m.; Feb. 22: at Splash Classic (Plainville HS), 10 a.m.; Feb. 28: at Wethersfield, 5 p.m.
Mar. 13: Class M diving at Bulkeley-Hartford, 4 p.m.; Mar. 15: Class M swimming trials at Walsh Intermediate-Branford, 3:30 p.m.; Mar. 18: Class M swimming finals at Wesleyan, 3 p.m.; Mar. 20: State Open diving at Middletown HS, 5:30 p.m; Mar. 22: State Open swimming at Yale, 2:30 p.m.