GREENWICH — In swim meets involving two premier teams, one or two events are oftentimes the deciding factors in which squad emerges victorious.
Such was certainly the case when longtime FCIAC rivals Greenwich and New Canaan tested their skills against each other in a much-anticipated early-season meet on Friday.
Following standout performances from its divers, New Canaan pulled even with Greenwich in team points. Yet a 1-2-3 finish in the 100-yard freestyle gave the Cardinals a pivotal 10-point lead they would not relinquish.
Sweeping the top three spots in the 100 freestyle and taking first and second in the 200 medley relay sparked Greenwich to a well-earned 97-89 win over New Canaan before a big crowd at Greenwich High School.
The tough victory improved defending State Open, Class LL and State Open champion Greenwich’s record to 4-0.
“It’s a terrific win for our team, we swam really well,” GHS coach Terry Lowe said. “The key was the two sweeps. We opened up with a 1-2 finish in the 200 medley relay, giving us a 10-point lead. Three excellent swims in the 100 freestyle was huge for us.”
Receiving two individual victories apiece from junior Patrick Colwell, senior Jake Ritz and senior Michael Kotlyar, the Rams won nine of the 12 events.
“Greenwich has hands down been the best team in the state for decades, so any time you get an opportunity to see what you can do and what your team can do, it’s a good test,” New Canaan coach Kat Munson said. “I am beyond thrilled with the way the way our team performed today.”
With the meet tied at 47-47, Greenwich took the lead for good at 60-50, by placing 1-3 in the 100-yard freestyle. Junior Thomas Lewis won the 100 freestyle for the Cardinals with a time of 49.54 seconds. Teammates Nick Malchow, a sophomore, finished second (49.61) and Charlie Clark, a junior, was third (49.63).
“It was definitely a big event for us, Charlie, Malchow and I all looked at each other and said, ‘we’ve got to win this,’” Lewis said. “We were pumped up and got a nice race out of it. They (New Canaan) had a great meet and had some great swims, so this is a good victory for us.”
Leading most of the way, Ritz posted a winning time of 4:51.48 in the 500 freestyle, but Greenwich maintained its 10-point advantage (68-58) with second and third-place finishes from Nick Todorovic and Alex Plavoukos in the event.
“The 500 was an event, where I just wanted to do my job for the team and swim a good time,” Ritz said. “I am very hopeful for what the future holds for us — the sky’s the limit for us.”
Greenwich’s 200-yard medley team of Justin Jacob, Lewis, Stephan Todorovic and Mark Merson got the Cardinals off to a good start. The foursome posted a winning time of 1:38.80. The Cards placed second in 1:42.69, followed by New Canaan (1:45.70).
The Rams, who trailed 12-2 after the first event, closed to within 12-10 with a 1-2 finish in the 200 freestyle. Ritz touched the wall first for the Rams in the 200 freestyle in 1:46.11. Teammate Richard Ettinger was the runner-up with a time of 1:48.97. Greenwich’s Alex Plavoukos was third.
“The 200 I knew the Greenwich guys would be out there really fast,so I just had to make sure I swam my own race,” Ritz said. “I was not expecting any time for myself, I just tried to do my best.”
In the 200-yard individual medley, Colwell gave his squad six first-place points, clocking in at 1:57.11. Stephan Todorovic placed second (1:59.62) and Ryan Jee of the Cardinals took third (2:00.70).
The 50 freestyle was a tight race that saw Kotylar of New Canaan register a winning time of 22.05. Right behind him were Malchow (22.23) and Merson (22.64).
The Cards held a 36-26 lead after the 50 freestyle.
“This meet we gave it all we had, every person put it all on the line,” Colwell said. “Even though we lost it’s a moral victory, because we really stepped it up. People who got fifth and fourth really made this meet close. The 2 IM was a breakout swim for me, I think that’s a personal-best for me in dual meets.”
Impressively executing his six dives, junior James Ragusa amassed a winning total of 282.30 points on the 1-meter diving board. Junior Jackson Oehmler placed second for the Rams (277.15), while Greenwich’s Joel Satir was third (244.60).
“Our divers were absolutely fantastic,” Munson said. “They are really solid competitors and provided a big shift in the meet. They brought us back into the meet.”
Lowe was also pleased with what he saw on the diving board from his athletes.
“Joel taking third in diving was big, because I was concerned about them getting all of the diving points,” Lowe. “That enabled us to get a few points.”
Colwell was the 100 butterfly winner (51.33), while Stephan Todorovic placed second (52.77). New Canaan’s foursome of Colwell, Ettinger, Brian Harrell and Ritz touched the wall first in the 200 freestyle relay (1:29.74), GHS freshman Justin Jacob registered a winning time of 54 seconds in the 100 backstroke and Kotlyar took top honors in the 100 breaststroke (1:00.08). The meet concluded with the Rams winning the 400 freestyle relay in 3:19.83.
“I swam the backstroke in the 200 medley relay, so I came into the race confident,” Jacob said. “The first 50 I was strong, then I felt their guy catching up on me in the last 50, so I knew I had to go as fast as possible. I ended up getting my best time.”
Said Lowe: “Justin has improved so much the first few months of the season for us. The fact that we are swimming like this now is a great statement for us.”
GREENWICH 97, NEW CANAAN 89
200-yard medley relay: 1. Greenwich (Justin Jacob, Thomas Lewis, Stephan Todorovic, Mark Merson) 1:38.80; 200 freestyle — 1. Jake Ritz (NC) 1:46.11; 200 individual medley — 1. Patrick Colwell (NC) 1:57.1; 50 freestyle — 1. Michael Kotlyar (NC) 22.05; Diving — 1. James Ragusa (NC) 282.30; 100 butterfly — 1. Patrick Colwell (NC) 51.23; 100 freestyle — 1. Thomas Lewis (G) 49.54; 500 freestyle — 1. Jake Ritz (NC) 4:51.48; 200 freestyle relay — 1. New Canaan (Patrick Colwell, Richard Ettinger, Brian Harrell, Jake Ritz) 1:29.75; 100 backstroke — 1. Justin Jacob (G) 54.00; 100 breaststroke — 1. Michel Kotlyar (NC) 1:00.08; 400 freestyle relay — 1. New Canaan (Patrick Colwell, Richard Ettinger, Brian Harrell, Jake Ritz 3:19.83.