By BRIAN JENNINGS
The Blue Devil swimming and diving team entered the postseason on Saturday, March 4 when they competed at the CCC South Blue swimming championship. Plainville placed fifth out of six teams with 117 points.
Middletown (391) won the conference title with eight first-place finishes out of the 12 events. Berlin (328) finished as runner-up, followed by Platt-Maloney (184), Bristol Co-op (182), and Bulkeley (114).
“One of the good things about the conference meet is that it gives the swimmers, who may not have the experience or are not at the stage to continue on to states, an opportunity to have a last championship meet to see what they can end their season on,” said Plainville coach Chris Zagorski. “A lot of our newer and younger swimmers dropped time, and I think they had a great meet.”
Some of those swimmers included freshman Matt Knutelski who dropped over 32 seconds in the 500 freestyle. Sophomore Tyler St. Onge also dropped time in the same event, shading off over 13 seconds from his seeded mark.
For the more experienced swimmers who are going to continue on to the Class S meet, Zagorski said that the conference meet wasn’t the place to reach a whole lot of best times.
“They’re focusing on trials and finals,” the coach said. “They did all right, but I’m not looking for them to have a lot of major drops.”
Top individual performances from the meet included the following: Isaiah Bandle in the 500 freestyle (8th, 5:55.21) and 200 freestyle (10th, 2:11.12); Kyle Sullivan in the 100 backstroke (10th 1:10.32) and 100 freestyle (14th, 1:00.91); Graham Eyres in the 100 breaststroke (11th, 1:17.45) and 50 freestyle (13th, 26.43); Bryan Buckley in diving (7th, 136.15); Lorenzo Samperi in the 100 fly (9th, 1:03.07); and Taegan Brochu in the 200 individual medley (12th, 2:29.98).
Goodwin Tech swimmer, Josh Donaghy, competes with Plainville during the regular season and swam a 1:58.16 in the 200 freestyle and a 5:20.92 in the 500 freestyle.
Plainville’s best finish in the team events came from a sixth-place mark (1:58.8) by Brochu, Eyres, Samperi, and Sullivan in the 200 medley relay. Samperi, Nick Costantini, Bandle, and Brochu took seventh (1:47.47) in the 200 freestyle relay, and Marcos Gutierrez, Eyres, Sullivan, and Bandle took eighth (4:12.03) in the 400 freestyle relay.
The following swimmers currently qualified for the state meet include the following: Brochu in the 50 freestyle and 100 fly, Donaghy in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle, Samperi in the 100 fly, and Buckley in diving. Bandle is close in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle. Samperi is on the bubble in the 200 individual medley. Zagorski said that there are a lot of swimmers in the running for representing Plainville in the relays at the state meet.
“We have some talent,” the coach said. “There are some that are a little closer to the cutline than we’ve had in the past. There’s always an opportunity, it’s just up to those kids to put themselves in place to take advantage of it.”
This is the first time in Zagorski has qualified a diver for the state meet in his five-year tenure with the program. This is the Buckley’s first year on the team.
“He made huge strides in his first year on the board,” said Zagorski. “He’s put a lot of work in to get himself to this point. He still has some work he needs to do, but it’s a great opportunity to see some of the best diving in the state, and it’s really just up to him to see if he can better his score he got at conferences.”
The Devils finished the regular season at 3-8 overall (2-6 home, 1-2 away) with a 1-7 regional record in the CCC South and 1-4 divisional record in the CCC South Blue.
“I think that we had a solid regular season,” the coach said. “The fact that we had a bigger team helped. We had more competitive meets than we’ve had in the past. One of our biggest issues this year was the injuries and other issues that kept some swimmers out of the pool in some meets, which might have cost us a meet or two.”
Plainville will be hosting the Class S diving trials and finals on Thursday, March 9 at 5:30 p.m., as well as the Class S swimming trials on Saturday March 11 at 3:30 p.m. Finals will be held at Wesleyan University on Wednesday, March 15 at 1:30 p.m. Psych sheets for the state meets are to be posted by the CIAC by 4 p.m. on Tuesday, March 7.
Having that comfort level of being in your own can be a good thing. But according to Zagorski, it can also be a bad thing as well.
“It can be good to know what to expect and know exactly where you need to do your turns,” the coach said. “For divers, you’re comfortable with the board, and that’s huge. You just have to be able to fight any feeling of being too comfortable there. Being in that college pool atmosphere at finals at Wesleyan gives you a little kick in the butt to get motivated.”
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at bjennings@ southingtonobserver.com.