Sparked by its seniors.
That was part of the theme of the SWC virtual swimming championships for Weston.
Behind several standout performances from seniors, Weston won the SWC team swimming title for sixth straight season, amassing 533 team points.
Newtown placed second in the team standings (446), followed by Pomperaug (336), Bethel/Immaculate (271) and New Milford (240) in the 10-team meet.
The championship meet was certainly like no others in the past. Due to season-long safety precautions taken because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the SWC championships saw each team swim by themselves at their own venue. The results from each meet were sent in and combined to determine individual winners and team champions.
“It was definitely interesting, especially the last two weeks or so,” Weston coach Brandon Barone said. “A lot of teams had their meets on Nov. 7, we had ours on the 14th. At that time, everything started blowing up on the coronavirus front in the state. Every day, I was hearing rumors, so in that sense, it was nerve-wracking. Our team, though, was excited and focused. My assistant coaches and I knew it was going to go well.”
Seniors Isabella Gary and Alexa Pappas each won two individual events to pace Weston. Gary, who will swim at UConn next season, ended her Trojans career in style, winning the SWC title in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard breaststroke.
Gary touched the wall first in the 200 IM, clocking in at 2:09.18. Teammate Nicole Linell, also a senior, was the runner-up in 2:14.62. Brookfield junior Katie Tolla placed third (2:15.46), followed by Weston sophomore Olivia Huewe (2:16.89).
“It was a good thing having Bella and Nicole matched up against each other,” Barone said. “They had someone to compete against and they pushed each other.”
In the 100-yard breaststroke, Gary claimed the SWC title, posting a winning time of 1:05.04. Linell placed second in 1:05.20 and Rosemary Nieto from Bunnell finished third (1:07.53).
“They are both incredible breaststrokers and great in the IM,” Barone said of Gary and Linell. “They will definitely be missed next year.”
Linell will compete on the swim team at Northeastern University next season.
“She was one of our leaders,” Barone said of Linell. “Nicole was always there to support and encourage the team and firing up her teammates.”
Barone was especially impressed with Gary’s versatility.
“Bella can swim any event across the board,” he said. “Whenever I need someone to swim an event, she will step up and do it. If I had a random opening, she was always the first to volunteer. She wants to do better in every aspect of the sport.”
Brookfield finished sixth in the team standings (204), followed by Masuk (199), Joel Barlow (188), Bunnell (123) and New Fairfield (104).
Pappas placed first in the 100-yard butterfly (55.82 seconds) and won the 100 backstroke (55.85). New Milford senior Amanda Neeb was second in the 100 butterfly (56.92), followed by Bunnell senior Rosemery Nieto (1:00.62). In the 100 backstroke, Huewe finished second (59.66), while Newtown senior Caroline Mahoney was right behind her (59.70).
“Alexa Pappas is the fastest swimmer I’ve ever coached,” Barone said. “It was great having her come back this year. She took a year off to focus on her year-round U.S. training last year, but she wanted to come back her senior year and it was a pleasure to coach her once again. Every time she dives in the water it’s fun to sit back and watch her race.”
Huewe, Linell, Gary and Pappas combined for a winning time of 1:49.75 in the 200-yard medley relay. Newtown was the runner-up in 1:52.65, while Pomperaug took third (1:55.02).
Newtown freshman Brianna Deierlein was a double winner. She took first in the 200 freestyle (1:56.28) and won the 100 freestyle (53.80). Olivia Herbert from Bethel/Immaculate finished second in the 200 freestyle (1:57.03), followed by teammate Cate Carboni (1:58.39).
Newtown freshman Norah Kolb was second in the 100 freestyle (55.31) and Newtown’s Diellza Limani, also a freshman, finished third (56.83).
Carboni captured the SWC 500 freestyle title in 5:11.61, while Neeb took top honors in the 50 freestyle (24.54). Masuk senior Liz Stoelzel had a second-place finish in the 50 freestyle (24.76) and Newtown’s Caroline Mahoney placed third (24.81).
The SWC diving championship was earned by Brookfield sophomore Mykayla Lavery (343.55 points). Masuk senior Kayla Scott placed second on the 1-meter board (339.65).
Newtown’s foursome of Shayna Millard, Kolb, Payton Bradley and Deierlein combined to win the 200 freestyle (1:42.79).
In the 400 freestyle relay, Weston sophomore Adele Kopis, freshman Millie Bailey, Gary and Pappas won the race in 3:43.03, edging Newtown (3:43.33).
“Our freshman and sophomore stepped up big in that 400 relay and our seniors were great,” said Barone, whose squad went 8-0 during the dual meet season. “Like every team in the state, this team had to push through adversity. They put in a lot of effort and our captains did a great job of building that sense of team and community.”