The championship trend continued in 2018 for the Greenwich High School girls swimming team, which once again, showed significant improvement with each meet.
By season’s end, the Cardinals had three more titles to their collection and a pool full of memorable moments.
Greenwich achieved the trifecta last season, winning the State Open, Class LL and FCIAC championships for the second straight year, achievements it of course, has its sights set on this fall.
“Our goal is to have another great season,” GHS coach Lorrie Hokayem said. “We’ve had a lot of success over the last five, six years and it’s going to be a competitive season for us. We have a lot of development to go through, but our goals remain very high.”
Captains Meghan Lynch, Jenna Handali, Regina Frias and Casey Kirsch hope to keep the Cardinals on their usual winning pace.
“I am really excited about our team,” said Lynch, a junior, who won the State Open title in the 200 individual medley (1:59.57) and 100 breaststroke (1:02.75) in 2018. “We lost some really good swimmers, but at practice everyone has been doing great. A couple of freshmen have been doing really good in practice.”
Lynch, who will compete in the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha Neb., in 2020, is coming off a season in which she broke the state record in winning the 200 IM at the Class LL Championships (1:59.30). She also won the 100 breaststroke at the Class LL meet (1:02.28) and over the course of last season achieved All-America times in the 100-yard freestyle (50.60) and 100 breaststroke (1:02.28).
“Everyone has to step up, since we lost some good point scorers from last year,” Lynch said. “We have to work really hard in practice and at the meets and everyone has to cheer.”
Frias and Casey Kirsch will help captain the divers — a group that was instrumental to the squad’s success a year ago.
“We have three seniors in diving, so we have a lot of potential,” Frias said. “We also have five sophomores, who show a lot of potential in diving. They are going to make an impact. We dive year-round with the YMCA Marlins, so we are all super close.”
A versatile swimmer, Handali was especially effective in the freestyle events last season.
“Last year I swam the 50 and 100 free, but if coach needs me to swim something different I’ll gladly do it,” Handali said. “We did lose some swimmers that swam the 200 and 500, but we have swimmers that can step up and fill their roles.”
Greenwich opens its season Sept. 12 on the road against Norwalk/McMahon.
“Every new season brings new challenges,” Hokayem said. “We have a lot of versatility on the team, so it’s going to take us a few meets to figure out where everyone will swim.”
AT THE HELM: Hokayem is starting her fifth season as coach of the Cardinals. The team has captured the Class LL title in each of her seasons as coach and has claimed three State Open titles. Returning as an assistant coach for the third season is Julia Jones.
In 2018, Greenwich won the State Open team title, totaling 454 points. They edged Cheshire (439) by winning the meet’s final event — the 400-yard freestyle — in 3:28.24. Greenwich rolled to the Class LL title (745 team points) and won the FCIAC championship (363.50).
“Last year we had a really gritty team and we knew it was going to be tough for us to win all three titles,” Hokayem said. “So the girls worked so hard to make it happen. We really went for it at FCIACs and had some great performances and the momentum seemed to build from there.”
“The State Open was one of the most exciting meets I have ever been a part of, with it coming down to the last relay,” Hokayem said. “We had four outstanding performances in diving that gave us the edge.”
WHO’S GONE?: Diver Annabelle Pollack, who placed second at the Class LL Championships and fourth at the State Open, graduated, as did Maddie Muldoon (Class LL champion, 476.85 points, ninth at the Open). Distance swimmers Emily Warner, Allison Brea and Kortney Knudsen also graduated. Warner was sixth at the 2018 Class LL finals in the 200 freestyle, Brea finished fourth in the 500 freestyle and Knudsen placed in the top-15 in both events. They each qualified to compete in the last season’s State Open.
WHO’S BACK?: “We have a nice veteran core and some really good divers returning and coming up,” Hokayem said.
Lynch leads the core. Besides excelling in each individual event she swam in last season, she helped lead the 200 medley relay team to an All-America finish at the State Open (1:45.15) and the 400 freestyle relay team to victory.
“It was really fun last year, especially coming down to the last relay, which I was in,” Lynch said. “Hopefully, we can do that again.”
Frias, a senior, placed seventh on the 1-meter board at the State Open (445.80) and finished third at the Class LL finals (437.70). Senior Casey Kirsch finished fifth at the Class LL diving competition (399.35) and took 10th at the State Open (435.10).
Junior Samantha Ennis was 12th in the 200 IM (State Open) and 10th in the 100 backstroke (State Open). Junior Lexi de la Sierra is also among some of the returning athletes. Handali, a senior, finished 12th at the Open in the 100 freestyle last season and also sparked the championship 200 medley and 400-yard freestyle relay squads. Senior Saylor Kirsch, who was sidelined with an injury a year ago, is back with the squad and should help bolster the diving lineup.
Freshmen Victoria Liu and Daisy Decker are among some of the first-year athletes who could aid the Cards.
STRENGTHS: “We have a lot of potential in the distance events and breaststroke and backstroke should be strong events for us as well,” Hokayem said.
Greenwich has traditionally flourished in the relay events.
CAPTAIN’S COMMENTS: “My older sister was a captain on the team a few years back, so being one of the captains is an honor,” Frias said. “Being a captain is something I cherish and I am happy to help represent the team.”
SHOWDOWNS: Norwalk/McMahon, Sept. 12, away; Ridgefield, Sept. 18, away; New Canaan, home, Oct. 4; Wilton, Oct. 7, home.
“The best part about swimming and diving in the FCIAC is you are up against some of the best swimming and diving competition in the whole state, so it prepares you well,” Hokayem said.
Freshman Victoria Liu and Daisy Decker are among the first-year varsity swimmers that could make an impact.