For Lauralton Hall, competing in the SCC is certainly an excellent way to prepare for the challenges it will face during the rapidly approaching postseason meets.
“The best part about the SCC is there are teams that always make you keep your feet on the ground,” Lauralton Hall longtime coach Fran Pfeiffer said. “When you have to swim against teams like Cheshire and North Haven it really tests your team.”
The Crusaders have passed most of their tests so far this fall. Entering Tuesday’s meet against perennial powerhouse Cheshire, Lauralton Hall sported a record of 7-1, its lone loss coming against Amity.
“The season is going well, we’ve had some really good swims in each of our meets,” Pfeiffer said. “The seniors are living up to expectations and we have three or four freshman who are really doing well. We had a bump in the road against Amity — they had more firepower than us — but we are starting to get into good form.”
Winning a state title is nothing new to the Crusaders, who claimed the CIAC Class M championship in 2017 and three of the past four seasons. During Pfeiffer’s 24 years at the helm, Lauralton Hall has swam away with seven state titles overall.
This postseason, Lauralton Hall faces a new challenge, as it will compete in Class S , instead of Class M. They were last part of the Class S competition in 2013, when it placed second. The Crusaders moved up to Class M in 2014 and won the title that year, along with 2015 and 2017.
Defending champion Weston and Seymour, which is always a contender, are some of the squads Lauralton Hall will test its skills against at the Class S finals at Wesleyan University on Nov. 13. Prior to the state meet, the team will compete in the SCC Championships.
“The team is getting kind of antsy about competing in the state meet and the SCC meet,” Pfeiffer said. “They are hoping to do some damage in the Class S meet.”
From seniors to freshmen, Lauralton Hall has depth in each event. Seniors Ceili Clerkin and Katherine Connolly have helped lead the Crusaders in the freestyle events, while senior Isabella Preneta continues to shine in the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly.
Preneta was third in the 100 butterfly at the 2017 Class M Championships (1:00.16) and was fifth in the 200 IM (2:14.60). Senior Rory Woods provides strength and stamina in the 200 and 500 freestyle events. Woods was fourth at the Class M finals last season in the 200 freestyle (1:59.82) and placed fourth in the 500 freestyle (5:21.27).
Georgia Barnick, a senior, is one of the team’s top competitors in the 100 butterfly and breaststroke, while junior divers Kelly Shaw and Cassandra Burton have already qualified for the state meet.
“We have been fortified by our diving squad this year,” Pfeiffer said. “We are hoping to do some diving damage at the state meet, which we haven’t done in the past.”
Juniors Sophia Michaelangelo, Kelly DeRosa, Caroline Ward and Carly Weber have contributed in their respective events, as have freshman Caroline Begg, Ashlyn Blessey, Claire Kehley and Veronica Lester and sophomore Vivian Freitas.
Freitas placed sixth in the 100 freestyle (55.35) at the Class S finals in 2017 and was the runner-up in the 100 backstroke (1:00.89).
“We feel very good about our team,” Pfeiffer said. “I have an excellent associate coach, Paul Katz, who is good in technique and outstanding in swim knowledge. He was an All-American at Yale and he really dedicates himself to the sport of swimming.”
The Crusaders have more than 40 athletes on their roster, many of whom are used to performing in pressure-packed meets.
“We have been very fortunate at Lauralton Hall, because we have a good pedigree,” Pfeiffer said. We have won the state championship seven times since I’ve been and in the years we haven’t won we have always finished in the top three or close to that. Our kids have a — history to live up. They know that our goal is to do very well at the state championship.”
LAPATHON FOR CANCER
Each year numerous teams in the state swim laps to raise money for the Lion Heart Fund for Cancer Research. The Lauralton Hall, Foran and Hall swim squads have taken the time to swim laps together for the charitable cause this month.
The swimmers get sponsors to donate money for each lap they swim, with all the fund going to the Lion Heart Fund for Cancer Research.
“It’s been a major fundraiser, the SCC girls and boys teams have attached themselves to it,” Pfeiffer said. “Our team gets together with two other teams and they fulfill their lap commitments. They bring food and have a lot of fun, while raising a significant amount of money.”