As past results indicate, the Staples High School girls swimming team has a penchant for peaking at exactly the right time.
Behind numerous impressive performances, Staples finished third at both the State Open and Class LL championships in 2017 — results that were the norm for the squad, which makes its mark each and every postseason.
In 2016, the Wreckers placed third in the team standings at the Class LL final and were sixth at the State Open and the 2015 season saw them produce the exact same finishes. So, yes, Staples is a team that’s built for the championship meets.
“We are focused on doing well in the championship meets, we’re always ready for those meets,” Staples coach Mike Laux said. “Last year, we lost three meets during the regular season, but we ended up finishing third at FCIACs, third at LLs and third at the State Open behind Greenwich and Cheshire. Peaking at the right time is what we try to do — we try to get them ready for those meets.”
Staples has a trio of frontline swimmers capable of scoring plenty of points during their dual meets and the all-important postseason in Marissa Healy, Esme Hunter and Michelle Kennedy.
Healy, a senior, won the 50-yard freestyle title at the 2017 State Open with a time of 23.63 seconds and placed third in the meet in the 100-yard butterfly (56.99). She had second-place finishes in both events at last fall’s Class LL Championships.
Competing in the butterfly and backstroke as a freshman, Healy suffered a knee injury toward the end of her first season on the squad, but came back strong her sophomore year.
“She was laid up for a while with the injury, but she is a really hard worker and she did well her sophomore year,” Laux said of Healy. “During her junior year, we converted her into a freestyle swimmer and it paid off during the course of the season.”
The Wreckers began their season with a 104-82 loss to New Canaan, then defeated Trumbull, 101-80, and Healy was one of the squad’s standouts in each meet. She won the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly against New Canaan and also took first in both events against Trumbull. One of the team’s captains, Healy holds the program’s 100-meter freestyle record.
Hunter, a junior, is coming off a sophomore season that saw her garner the first-place medal in the 100-yard freestyle at the 2017 State Open (51.30) and finish second in the 100 backstroke (56.78). She placed second in each event at the Class LL competition.
“Esme came in her freshman year and looked at all of our records on the board and went out and swam almost every event,” Laux said. “She is a very talented, goal-oriented, focused swimmer.”
Like Healy, Hunter has enjoyed a successful start to the season, winning the 200-meter individual medley and 100 backstroke against New Canaan and the 100-meter backstroke against Trumbull. Hunter is the Wrecker’s record-holder in the 100-meter freestyle, 100-yard backstroke and 100-meter backstroke.
Staples has one of the top long distance swimmers in the state in Kennedy, a senior captain. Kennedy was sixth at last season’s State Open Championships in the 500 freestyle (5:06.94) and took fourth in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle at the Class LL meet. She posted winning performances in the 400-meter freestyle in Staples’ opening meets of its 2018 campaign.
Mia Fraas, who mostly swims in the butterfly and backstroke is the Wreckers’ other senior captain. Fraas finished second in the 100-meter backstroke in the team’s season-opener against Trumbull a week ago.
Morgan Lenoce (junior, 200 freestyle, 100 freestyle), Annie Bowens (junior, 100 breaststroke, 50 freestyle) and Jessica Qi (freshman, 100 freestyle, 200 IM) are among some of the other athletes that have led the team in its early-season meets.
“This is a really good group,” Laux said. “We may lose a few meets, because some teams have a little more depth than us, but that doesn’t mean we won’t do as well as them in the championship meets.”
Indeed, the postseason has been Staples’ time to shine.
“Our team gets excited for the FCIAC meet and they swim really fast at FCIACs and the state meets,” Laux said. “We would like to place among the top three at the FCIAC meet once again and top three at the LL meet. If we can place top six at the State Open that would be great. Our team is working well together and getting better.”
FAST START FOR AMITY
Amity, which finished eighth at the CIAC Class LL Championships last season and was a top-20 team at the State Open, is off to a 4-0 start to its season.
The Spartans began their season with a 106-77 win over Mercy, then swam past Hamden, 101-77. They have also defeated Lyman Hall (104-80) and Sheehan (103-75).
Besides winning its first four meets, Amity placed first in the last week’s West Hartford Invitational held at Cornerstone Aquatics Center.
Amity finished with a team score of 406.5 points, followed by Hall (363), Conard (291) and Pomperaug (259.5). Molly Cox won the 100 freestyle (55.68) and 100 backstroke (1:01.82) for the Spartans, while teammate Katie O’Connor was the 50 freestyle winner (25.05).
Amity’s 200 medley relay team of Cox, Chris Delda, Vera Belfonti and O’Connor registered a winning time of 1:55.97.
Greenwich senior diver Annabelle Pollack placed first on the 1-meter diving board in the Cardinals’ meet against Norwalk/McMahon on Friday with a personal-best point total of 264.65 for six dives. Pollack’s scores have risen each meet.
CC Breton of Cheshire broke a 6-dive team record of 285.67 points (also a personal-record) in the Rams’ 95-82 win over Lyman Hall last week.