As the first meet of the season against Ridgefield indicated, the challenges are daunting but the potential is great for the Greenwich High School boys swimming team.
The Cardinals suffered a rare regular-season loss before the holiday, to Ridgefield, but GHS coach Terry Lowe left the meet with plenty of optimism.
“Ridgefield took first in every event, but we took a lot of good things from that meet,” Lowe said. “We had some excellent swims for this time of year.”
If the Cardinals are to claim the triple crown of Connecticut high school swimming again — the FCIAC, Class LL and State Open championships — it will take a team effort, as they don’t possess the star power of previous seasons.
“It’s going to be a real challenge to maintain our level of success,” Lowe said. “We lost some really key performers from last season’s team — performers who scored big points at the State Open. We have to make a lot of improvement, but I’m confident we have athletes who can make themselves pretty competitive.”
Greenwich edged Pomperaug by six points for the CIAC State Open title last season, after cruising to the team championship in the Class LL competition and winning another FCIAC crown.
With a team that has a lot of freshman and sophomores on its roster, Greenwich should be a team that rounds into top form as the season progresses.
“It’s going to be a slower process for us than last year,” Lowe said. “We lost a couple of dual meets last year and we weren’t the least bit surprised to lose to Ridgefield, we knew they were going to be pretty dominant. We feel we are going to have people in every event who can do well for us, it’s just a matter of how high in the standings they will be able to finish.”
This year’s Cardinals are captained by seniors Jack Bound, Matt Li, Ryan Lynch and Kirk Schultz, all of whom produced stellar seasons last winter.
“Last year I said to the team I would be happy if they finished in the top three and they went on to squeaked out the State Open championship and win counties and LLs along the way,” Lowe said. “This year, I see us as a vastly improved team by March, hopefully. If we can win an FCIAC title and maybe the LL title that will be pretty impressive.”
AT THE HELM: Lowe is in his 50th season as coach of the Cardinals. During his legendary tenure, Greenwich has won 34 State Open championships and 24 Class LL titles. The Cardinals have been dominant against FCIAC competition, winning the conference’s championship meet 46 times over the past 47 seasons. Lorrie Hokayem, who is the coach of Greenwich’s championship girls team, returns as one of Lowe’s assistant coaches. Also back is Sergey Meshcherskiy, who coaches the team’s divers — all of whom have flourished in previous seasons.
WHO’S GONE?: Commencement claimed a talented group of contributors from last season’s championship squad. Patrick Clisham (50 freestyle, 100 butterfly, relays), Aedan Lewis (100 breaststroke, 200 individual medley, relay events), Conrad Moss (50 freestyle, relay events), Justin Sodokoff (team’s top diver) and Jon Jester (100 backstroke) were among some of the athletes who scored key points for the Cardinals at the Class LL and State Open championship meets.
Clisham, Lewis and Jester also provided valuable leadership as captains last season.
WHO’S BACK?: Though hit pretty hard by graduation, Greenwich does return a long list of athletes who scored points at last season’s State Open and Class LL finals.
Schultz (200, 500-yard freestyle events), Lynch (200 individual medley, 100 breaststroke), Sergei Shaw (diving), Patrick King (100 freestyle, 400 freestyle relay), Brian O’Leary (200 freestyle relay), Li (100 backstroke) and Mac Baxter (400 freestyle relay), all of whom are now seniors, were each State Open and Class LL scorers in their respective events during the 2016-17 season.
Junior Stephan Todorovic (200 individual medley) and sophomores Tommy Lewis (200 IM, 100 backstroke) and Andres Ruh (200 freestyle, 400 freestyle) also contributed to the Cards’ State and Class LL scoring.
Junior Michael McNulty (diving), Bound (100 butterfly), sophomore Charlie Clark (500 freestyle), senior Andrew Daur (100 backstroke), senior Segundo Rienhardt (100 breaststroke) and senior Ryan Chan (100 breaststroke) made their mark at last year’s Class LL Championships.
NEWCOMERS: Nicholas Malchow (100 freestyle, 100 backstroke), James Pascale (100 butterfly) and Christian Lanuza (500 freestyle) are among some of the first-year swimmers that should give the Cardinals’ depth in their lineup.
STRENGTHS: The Cardinals are always blessed with tremendous depth and this year’s squad has a lot of athletes with the potential of contributing to the team’s cause.
“The 500 freestyle should be a good event for us,” Lowe said. “We have more swimmers in this event than we had to work with in a long time.”
MARCH SHOULD BE FUN
The postseason meets in March should be exciting to watch with several teams vying for the titles.
“Ridgefield is one of the teams to beat in the states with their front-running swimmers (Kieran Smith, Andrew Bornstein),” Lowe said. “Cheshire is back to being an upper echelon team in the state and Fairfield Prep and Staples are much-improved teams this year. The State Open should be one of the most balanced meets ever.”