MIDDLETOWN — Record-setting performances, personal-best times, school records, first-place finishes. Yes, Tuesday’s CIAC Class LL Swimming Championships had everything for Greenwich and it all molded into yet another team title.
Senior tri-captain Kelly Montesi and fabulous freshman Meghan Lynch each set state records with outstanding individual swims for Greenwich, which cruised to it’s eighth straight Class LL championship Tuesday night at Wesleyan University. Greenwich amassed a team score of 828 points, while Ridgefield placed second with 535. Staples was third 475, followed by Norwalk-McMahon (397) and Trumbull (369.5).
“Winning state titles is our goal ever season, so every time we win one is special,”Montesi said. “We always want to be the best in the state and it’s good to know that our hard work is paying off.”
Said Cardinals coach Lorrie Hokayem: “It was a great night for our team from start to finish a lot of hard work went into it. Kelly and Meghan are two unbelieveable athletes who work very hard in practice and our whole team did exceptionally well tonight.”
The Cardinals, who had a more than 200-point lead on Ridgefield following the 500-yard freestyle, also set themselves up nicely for the State Open on Saturday.
Greenwich began the meet in championship form, winning the 200-yard medley relay. The quartet of Samantha Ennis, Lynch, Montesi and Louisa Bjerke touched the wall first in 1:45.56. Staples’ foursome of Esme Hunter, Willow Woods, Marissa Healy and Anne Bowens placed second in 1:45.74, followed by Ridgefield (1:48.64).
“That was a really tight relay,” Hokayem said. “Our girls swam their best splits of the season in that event. They were really inspired to swim fast.”
In of the most exciting and closest races of the meet, Ridgefield Junior Anna Turner won the 200-yard freestyle in 1:51.25. Greenwich senior Lillian Clisham was a very close second in 1:51.41, while Lauren Daignault of Norwalk-McMahon took third in 1:55.14.
“I’m really happy, it was a great race,” Turner said. “It was definitely nerve-wracking, but the last 50 I just focused on what I’ve been working on in practice. I came in second last year behind my best friend Marcie Maguire, so it’s nice to fill her shoes this year.”
Said Clisham: “I felt happy with that swim, I wouldn’t have done anything differently in that race. Our team did amazing tonight. After we did so well at the preliminaries I think we exceeded our expectations tonight.”
A nine-year state record fell in the 200 individual medley and Lynch of Greenwich, only a freshman, broke it. Quickly taking a lead, Lynch won the 200 IM in 2:01.34. The previous record was 2:01.60, by St. Paul’s Faith Martin. Lynch also eclipsed a Greenwich High School record in the event.
Woods of Staples was the runner-up in 2:10.35, while Samantha Ennis if the Cardinals took third in 2:11.35.
“It feels really nice to win this event,” Lynch said. “This meet is very excited and I’m so happy swim for my team and do well. I knew what the state record time was and I was hoping I could get it. It’s very exciting to get the record.”
The 50 freestyle saw senior Sarah Grinalds of Fairfield Ludlowe touch the wall first in a Class LL record time of 23.22. Right behind her was Healy of Staples (23.54) and Louise Kim of Shelton 23.95.
Greenwich’s second state record of the evening came in the 100 butterfly, where Montesi broke a four-year mark. Montesi garnered the first-place medal in a state record time of 54.03. Healy of Staples got the second-place medal in 56.64 and Trumbull senior Sophia Bragg took third in 58.04.
Montesi built a lead in the second lap and increased it in the third on her way to winning the race, which also saw her set a GHS record in the event. She also won the 100 butterfly at last season’s Class LL finals.
“It feels great, this is one if the meets that we’ve been working for all season, so it’s nice knowing that all our hard work has paid off,” Montesi said. “I felt good going into the race and was prepared to go fast. I knew I had a chance to get the record, it feels amazing to get it.”
In the 100-yard freestyle, Shelton senior Simona Visinski captured the first-place medal in 51.70. Esme Hunter from Staples was second in 51.89, while Mary Hufziger of Newtown placed third with a time of 52.37. Senior Julia Merrill of Greenwich finished fourth.
GHS held a 477-272 lead in the team standings on Ridgefield after the 100 freestyle. The Cardinals entered the meet with already 107 points after their divers finished 1-2-3-5 in the Class LL diving finals, with senior Kate Russack winning the title for the Cards.
Grinalds of Ludlowe won the shortest event of the night, the 50 freestyle, and the longest event, the 500 freestyle. She was the 500 freestyle winner in 4:55.10, while Clisham of Greenwich took the second place medal in 4:59.55. Turner from Ridgefield was third in 5:06.42.
“I went out really fast and definitely felt it at the end,” Grinalds said. “I was tired the last few legs of the race, but it was a really fun race. There were some great girls in that race, so I definitely felt myself being challenged. Winning the 50 free was also exciting, I love the number 5.”
Greenwich placed fourth in the 200 freestyle relay. The meet also served as a qualifier for the State Open so Greenwich qualified numerous swimmers for the meet. The 200 freestyle title went to Shelton (1:37.93), with Ludlowe finishing second (1:38.02) and Ridgefield placing third (1:38.26).
In the 100 backstroke, Montesi captured the title with a school-record showing of 55.07. Esme Hunter of Staples was a close second (57.37), while Laura Rosado from East Haven-Cross was third (57.63).
“This was the first time I competed in the 100 backstroke in a championship meet, so that was very exciting,” Montesi said.
Staples coach Mike Laux was pleased with what he saw from his squad.
“Our swimmers got a lot of best times tonight and showed a big improvement,” Laux said. “Willow Woods was outstanding for us once again, as was our whole team. Credit Greenwich, they came out like gangbusters tonight and had a really impressive meet. Ridgefield was great too.”
Lynch set a couple of more individual records, setting a Class LL and team mark in winning the 100 breaststroke, clocking in at 1:03.14. Jenna Leonard from Ridgefield was the runner-up in 1:06.09 and Woods from Staples took third.
GHS put the finishing touch on its victory by winning the 400 freestyle relay in a state record time of 3:27.16. Montesi, Merrill, Clisham and Lynch swam to the win, which also set a school record.
“To end the meet by setting a state record like that is pretty special,” Montesi said. “It was nice to end the meet on such a high note.”
“Hopefully, we qualified a lot of swimmers into the State Open,” Hokayem added. “We’re looking forward to the State Open after swimming so strong in this meet.”