By Soc Deacon
Submitted to the FVT
With only a week to go in the 2013-2014 regular season, the Simsbury High School Swimming and Diving Team looks to the postseason sporting a 10-2 record (as of February 11) and dozens of notable accomplishments by individual team members. Second-year coach Scott Chambers built on last year’s campaign of success to throw off any hint of a sophomore jinx and lead his team through one of the Trojans’ best dual-meet seasons in years. Coach Chambers talked about the season’s challenges and happily recounted the year’s highlights, sharing the personal bests and postseason qualifications of the athletes on his team.
“We lost some swimmers from last season, which left us weak in some events,” Chambers said, “but these kids rose to the occasion again and again this year. They are so plugged in; they know what we have to do.” Simsbury’s current 7-2 record against other Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) opponents included exciting victories against Newington and Windsor, both away meets, which came down to the last relays. The key race to the Newington win was the impressive 1-2-3 finish in the 500-yard freestyle by senior co-captain Sammi Dowd and sophomores Will Pendergast and Bethany Hamlin, according to Chambers. In the Windsor meet, the victory hinged on the 400-yard freestyle, and Simsbury powered to the win with the team of seniors Wyatt Gallagher, Kyle Chambers, and Nick Stamboulis along with sophomore Sean Russell.
Simsbury’s divers have also been stalwart contributors to the Trojans’ success this season, and several have qualified for statewide competition, including senior co-captain Katie Amarell, junior Cameron Schoffstall, and freshman Patrick “PJ” Jackson. Schoffstall, who seems poised to complete a second undefeated regular season, broke the team record twice, ultimately scoring a 262 against Granby on Jan. 15.
Dowd and Amarell and fellow seniors Nick Catalano and Jeremy LaVerde lead the team as co-captains. The Trojans have a bright future as well, according to the influx of new talent, including freshman standouts Corben Braun, Joanie Nicholson, and Dan Greenberg.
Chambers was also quick to acknowledge the contributions of his two assistant coaches, Mary Fran Drakely and diving coach Rich Kowalski, both of whom have been with him since he took the top job in 2012. Drakely primarily coaches the girls on this co-ed team and is “having a great time along with great success,” said Chambers. Kowalski, a long-time veteran as a coach of Simsbury High School swim teams, extends the coaching time he offers his divers beyond normal practice hours at the pool, providing additional training at a local gymnastics facility on trampolines. “Rich gives a lot of his personal time to these kids,” said Chambers. “I know they appreciate it – I sure do.”
Numerous Simsbury girls have already qualified for the “Splash Classic,” a late-February tournament event open to girls from Connecticut high school swim teams who compete in the winter season. Most girls who swim or dive during the winter season rarely compete only against other girls in their events (because winter high school swim teams in Connecticut are mainly either all boys or co-ed, rarely all girls). “Splash” – along with a new all-girl, all-sprint-races tournament called “Splish,” which took place on February 8 – gives girls on co-ed teams the opportunity to compete in a tournament intended just for them.
The Trojan swimmers and divers also staged two special events that have become solid traditions over the years: the Swim-A-Thon, a combination fund-raiser and charity event, and Senior Night, a celebration honoring the careers of the departing Trojan swim team seniors. The Swim-A-Thon raised more than $2,500 through pledges. Much of the money went to defray the cost of preseason pool time and other expenses, but the team made a $540 donation to this year’s charity of choice: Simsbury Social Services. Senior Night, which took place during the meet against Suffield on Feb. 4 and included gifts from the team and individual tributes for each of the Simsbury seniors from Coach Chambers, was the most well-attended meet of the season, with parents, friends, and other well-wishers packing Westminster’s Sherwin Aquatic Center to cheer Simsbury to victory.
Following the conclusion of the regular season and the Splash Classic, the girls and boys will compete together against the other schools in their segment of the CCC in the CCC West Championship, with divers Schoffstall, Amarell, and Jackson continuing their season by representing Simsbury in the Connecticut State Tournament, which happens in mid-March.
For more information about the team and upcoming meets, please visit www.simsburyswimming.com.