Since twin sisters Julia and Jillian Stevens joined the Cheshire girls swimming team as freshmen in 2016, the Rams have won three SCC championships, two Class L titles and yes, a whole lot of dual meets.
Cheshire’s victory against Hamden Monday night was its 58th consecutive dual meet win over a five-year span and the Stevens sisters have competed in the majority of them.
Now seniors, Jillian and Julia help lead a Rams squad that’s deep in each event and faces new challenges this fall.
“They are both really good kids and excellent leaders,” Cheshire second-year coach Dave Modzelewski said of the Stevens sisters. “They are hard workers and they’re good at different strokes. Julia is more of a distance swimmer and Jillian likes to compete in the the individual medley and backstroke.”
Julia Stevens placed third in the 200-yard freestyle at the 2018 State Open Championships (1:52.13) and was sixth in the 500 freestyle (5:03.15). She won the 200 freestyle title at the Class L finals in 1:52.05 and also topped the competition in the 500 freestyle (5:02.53).
“Last year at the Open, she was top-five and she knows all the girls that were ahead of her graduated, so she is the next one up,” Modzelewski said of Julia Stevens. “She is looking to end her senior year strong and also maybe get the school record in the 200 and 500 if she can. I’m just here to help her along.”
Like a lot of athletes on the Rams, Julia Stevens is versatile and in Cheshire’s win against Hamden she swam the 100 butterfly, taking first in 59.10 seconds. The Stevens twins also swim for the Cheshire YMCA Sea Dogs Swim Club, coached by Modzelewski.
“She (Julia Stevens) competed in the 100 and 200 yard butterfly and the mile, along with all the relays at Nationals,” Modzelewski said. “She was definitely one of the leaders for us at the national meet.”
After her swimming career at Cheshire concludes, Julia Stevens will take her swim skills to Lehigh University in 2019. Jillian Stevens also plans on continuing her swimming career at the collegiate level.
At the 2018 State Open Championships, Jillian Stevens finished ninth in the 100 backstroke (58.88) and was third in the event at the Class L competition (58.43). Jillian Stevens one of the captains of the Rams, along with senior Sarah Chen.
“Jillian is a hard worker and is always ready to go,” Modzelewski said. “She is a team leader, event organizer and community organizer,” Modzelewski said. “She’s always there to help the team any way she can.”
The entire Rams team displayed their good will recently. Cheshire held a bake sale to raise money for its program and when it concluded the team brought the left over baked goods to the police station, fire stations and ambulance corps in Cheshire.
Though the Rams graduated 17 seniors from last season’s SCC and Class L championship squad, Modzelewski considers this year’s team an experienced group.
“We gained 14 new freshman, our junior class is strong and our seniors are great leaders,” he said. “The makeup of the team is younger, but we don’t lack experience.”
Among the key returning juniors is Sophie Murphy. In 2018, Murphy won the 50-yard freestyle title at the State Open (23.51) and garnered the first-place medal at the meet in the 100 freestyle (51.36). She also won both events at the Class L Championships a year ago. Murphy won the 200 IM at the Rams’ most recent meet against Hamden.
“Sophie always wants to swim a different event every meet and I let her do it, because she is good in several events,” Modzelewski said. “I never really have to let her swimmers compete in back-to-back events, like some teams do. I can space it out, because of our depth. I try not to put them in their best events every meet.”
Juniors Nora Bergstrom (top 15 in 200 freestyle at 2018 State Open) and Ava Breton are among some of the returning upperclassmen who should spark the squad.
The Stevens sisters and Cheshire will face a different challenge come postseason. Cheshire has moved up to Class LL and will contend with squads such as Greenwich, Ridgefield and Staples in the state meet. Greenwich won the State Open title in 2018 with a team score of 454 points, while Cheshire was the runner-up.
“Our team is excited and maybe, a little nervous,” Modzelewski said. “They knew what to expect from some of the teams in Class L. We are in LL now with teams we don’t normally swim against. It’s an opportunity for us to swim faster in the preliminaries, get more kids to finals and more kids to qualify for the Open. This is a strong-willed bunch and they are looking to do the same thing as last year and better.”
HAMDEN JUMPS BACK INTO ITS POOL
When Hamden hosted Amity on Sept. 19, it marked its first home meet since Oct. 13, 2017. The pool at Hamden High was closed in 2018, while renovations at the site were taking place.
Some of the renovations at the pool included a new surface in the pool, improved lighting and bleachers. The Hamden team took to Twitter on Sept 18, where they announced they would be hosting their first meet in two years. Then they jumped into their upgraded pool in unison.