WATERBURY >> Sacred Heart, head and shoulders above their NVL girls competition during the regular season, followed through in the league championships at Kennedy High School Saturday night for the Hearts’ first girls swimming league championship since the early ‘90s.
“We’ll do the best we can,” said Sacred Heart coach Butch Savage before the meet.
“The best they could” earned Heart freshman Margaret Flaherty the meet’s best swimmer award for victories in the 200 and 500 freestyle and the anchor leg of the winning 400 freestyle relay, along with an 853-684 winning margin over second-place Torrington.
The Red Raiders were happy with that.
Figuring the meet a three-way struggle for second between Torrington, Naugatuck and Watertown, Torrington, Coach Katie Gregory had her fingers crossed before the meet began.
“That’s what we planned,” she said, citing her ace-in-the hole as Torrington’s three divers — Angela Clark, Mariah Herczeg and Elisabeth Vasquez — who already finished fifth, sixth and seventh in the diving competition.
“We’re the only school with three divers scoring points,” said Gregory.
“We did our best,” said Clark.
“You miss the crowd (at the separate competition), but, at the end of the day, you’re doing it for yourself,” said Vasquez.
The isolation, in practice and competition, brings them closer, the girls said.
“We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Without each other, we wouldn’t have done so well,” said Clark.
That sort of bond exists on the team as well, according to Sara Heath, a senior softball-team veteran swimming competitively for the first time this year.
“The team is so together,” she said. “They’re so excited when you do your best.”
Most of the team did just that, thanks to tapering (easing up on practices) for the meet.
“I did much, much better, like two seconds off every event,” said Heath.
Sophomore Cara McCarthy did even better.
“I’ve never really tapered before,” she said.
The second-place goal held solid.
Makenzie Welch, Hailey Ross, Payton Welch and Heath started out second in the 200-yard medley relay.
Payton Welch took fifth in the 200-yard freestyle.
“I’m disappointed,” she said. “I gained time.”
Makenzie Welch was second in the 200-yard individual medley. Payton Welch was third in the butterfly, gaining time or not.
Jessica Gray, Chloe Vollaro, Melanie Nadle and Heath took sixth in the 200-yard freestyle relay.
“We did great getting into the championship heat,” said Coach Gregory.
Makenzie Welch, the only Torrington swimmer to delay her taper until the state meets, won the backstroke, just .02 seconds off her own school record (1:00.88 on Saturday).
“I want to get it under a minute,” said Welch.
Jessica Gray was sixth.
Payton Welch, Gray, Vollaro and Makenzie Welch finished off with a fourth place in the 400 relay.
“It was a more solid second place than I thought,” grinned Coach Gregory.
NVL Girls Swimming Finals
At Kennedy High School
Team scores: 1. Sacred Heart 853; 2. Torrington 684; 3. Naugatuck 585; 4. Watertown 566; 5. Woodland 479; 6. Seymour 472; 7. St. Paul 420; 8. Kennedy 230.
Individual winners and Torrington top six
200-yard Medley Relay: 1. Sacred Heart (Erin Brown, Meaghan Spagnolo, Kiersten Snyder, Jocelyn Medina), 1:59.04; 2. Torrington (Makenzie Welch, Hailey Ross, Payton Welch, Sara Heath), 2:01.67. 200 freestyle: 1. Margaret Flaherty, Sacred Heart, 1:58.07; 5. Payton Welch, Torrington, 2:07.61. 200 IM: 1. Lilly Martin, Saint Paul, 2:16.77; 2. Makenzie Welch, Torrington, 2:19.67. 50 free: 1. Sarah Bowes, Saint Paul, :25.75. 100 butterfly: 1. Martin, Saint Paul, 1:00.99; 3. Payton Welch, Torrington, 1:05.80. 100 freestyle: 1. Kim Hylan, Saint Paul, :55.68. 500 free: 1. Flaherty, Sacred Heart, 5:21.40. 200 free relay: 1. Saint Paul (Sarah Bowes, Gaby Houle, Lilly Martin, Kim Hylan), 1:45.45; 6. Torrington (Jessica Gray, Chloe Vollaro, Melanie Nadle, Sara Heath), 1:54.05. 100 backstroke: 1. Makenzie Welch, Torrington, 1:00.88; 6. Jessica Gray, Torrington, 1:11.00. 100 breaststroke: 1. Emma Crocamo, Sacred Heart, 1:09.52. 400 freestyle relay: 1. Sacred Heart (Alizabeth Sullivan, Abby Walsh, Kiersten Snyder, Margaret Flaherty), 3:52.12; 4. Torrington (Payton Welch, Jessica Gray, Chloe Vollaro, Makenzie Welch), 4:02.91.