Well-represented in each event and given a head start in the points department on some of its competitors due to the impressive performances of its divers, the Greenwich High School girls swimming team enters Saturday’s CIAC State Open Championships with pool full of optimism.
“We have a really strong team going in and our divers did great yesterday (Thursday’s State Open diving finals) so that always gives us a nice boost of confidence,” GHS swim coach Lorrie Hokayem said. “We have 14 seniors on the team this year, so experience is something that’s important. So many experienced swimmers are competing tomorrow and they know how hard it is to swim fast at the end of the season.”
Saturday’s State Open Championships begins at 5 p.m. at Yale University — a venue that has seen the Cardinals experience a lot of success in past seasons.
“It is one of our favorite places to swim,” Hokayem said. “It is a tough pool, but the atmosphere is electric and we always swim well there. It’s such a great pool for spectators and it’s fun being there.”
Greenwich has won a team-best 19 State Open titles, including victories at the season-ending meet the last two seasons. The Cardinals claimed last year’s State Open crown with a team score of 510.5 points, while Ridgefield was the runner-up (400.5).
After winning their eighth straight Class LL title Tuesday at Wesleyan University by amassing 828 points, Greenwich should be the team to beat at Saturday’s State Open, with Cheshire, Ridgefield, New Canaan and Darien also expected to contend for the championship.
Cheshire won the Class L championship with a score of 854, while Ridgefield finished second at the Class LL finals. Darien and New Canaan were second and third, respectively, in Class L.
Greenwich’s quartet of freshman Samantha Ennis, freshman Meghan Lynch, senior Kelly Montesi and senior Louisa Bjerke are seeded second in the State Open’s 200-yard medley relay with a time of 1:45.56. They are coming off a first-place performance at the Class LL meet. Cheshire’s 200-medley relay team of Alexandra Tyler, Elizabeth Boyer, Julia Stevens and Sophie Murphy have the top-seeded time (1:43.99).
Ridgefield junior Anna Turner is seeded first in the 200-yard freestyle after winning the Class LL title in the event with a time of 1:51.25. Cardinals senior Lillian Clisham is seeded second in the event (1:51.41).
Lynch goes into the State Open with as the No. 1 seed in the 200 individual medley. She captured the first-place medal in the event at the Class LL finals in a GHS record time of 2:01.34. Senior Elizabeth Boyer of Cheshire is seeded second (2:02.86) and senior Carly Rutledge from Darien is seeded third (2:05.83).
“We have some top contenders,” Hokayem said. “We are lucky to have so many talented girls all at the same time and they have all put in the work. I was floored to see them achieve these top times and their personal-best times at the Class LL meet. The adrenaline was contagious and it just added to the whole meet, which was so much fun.”
Fairfield Ludlowe senior Sarah Grinalds is the top seed in the 50 freestyle (23.22). Grinalds touched the wall first in the event at Tuesday’s LL finals and Staples junioir Marissa Healy, who finished second, is the No. 2 seed (23.54) heading into the State Open.
Junior Claire Ross took the State Open diving championship with a score of 498.10, while senior Kate Russack (486.10) and junior Annabelle Pollack (469.25) of Greenwich were second and third, respectively. Junior Maddie Muldoon finished sixth (452.75), while sophomore Casey Kirsch (422.70) was 10th for the Cards.
“Our divers were great once again,” Hokayem said. “To get that boost in points going into a meet this tough is awesome. Sergey Meshcherskiy (GHS diving coach) does a great job with the divers, they always compete at the highest level.”
Montesi will look to successfully defend her State Open championship in the 100 butterfly. She won the event last year in 55.65 and set a state record in winning the butterfly Tuesday at the Class LL finals in 54.03. She is seeded first in the event.
In the 100 freestyle, Cheshire freshman Sophie Murphy has a top-seeded time of 51.61. Greenwich senior Julia Merrill is seeded eighth (52.93). Clisham has the fourth-seeded time in the 500 freestyle (4:59.55), while sophomore Julia Stevens is seeded third and Grinalds is seeded second.
The 200 freestyle relay should be one of the most exciting events to watch at Saturday’s Open with seven teams having qualifying times within one second of each other. Shelton has the top qualifying time (1:37.93), while Greenwich is fifth (1:38.72).
Montesi will make her first appearance at the State Open in the 100 backstroke — an event she won at the Class LL meet in a school-record showing of 55.07. She has the best qualifying time, while Cheshire freshman Alexandra Tyler of Cheshire has a qualifying time of 56.98 and Hunter has a time of 57.37.
Lynch set a Class LL/school record in winning the 100 breaststroke in 1:03.14 and has the third-best qualifying time for the State Open. Cheshire’s Elizabeth Boyer is seeded first (1:02.35), while New Canaan senior Lizzy Colwell is seeded second (1:03.03).
“Kelly, Meghan, Lilly, they always get us going,” Hokayem said. “Having 14 kids swimming at the Open shows our depth. That is a big strength for us.”
Montesi, Merrill, Clisham and Lynch established a state record in posting a first-place finish at the LL finals in the 400 freestyle relay (3:27.16). Seeded second in the event is Ridgefield (3:30.84).
“We set the bar really high at practice and put together some really challenging workouts, that’s why not too much is surprising when we see records being broken,” Hokayem said. “Their ability to rise to the occasion and swim and dive their hardest is really impressive.”