Each new season brings with it a renewed sense of optimism for the area boys swims teams. Southington is coming off a winning season and brings back a number of key returnees to help the Blue Knights compete once again.
The other three schools - Plainville, Newington and Berlin - have key contributors coming back as well, but also have to plenty of inexperience entering the fold. It could be a rebuilding year for those three or it could allow them to compete to even greater lengths than in 2015. Only time will tell.
All four of the swim teams, however, are bringing in a core of freshmen swimmers that will have to go through some growing pains. It could be this crop that helps determine how each team does in team events prior to the meets that really matter.
With that in mind, here are a closer looks that the area boys swim teams:
Head Coach: Evan Tuttle (7th season)
Last Year: 7-4
Key Losses: John Stevens (Class LL Finalist), Austin Bull (Class LL Finalist), Steve Sokolowksi (Class LL Finalist), Dariusz Zajac (Class LL Finalist)
Key Returnees: Zack Blake (Sr.), P.J. Ramsey (Sr.), Jon Symecko (Sr.), Evan Bender (Jr.), Ben Wakefield (Jr.), Brendon Egan (Jr.), Chase Galayda (So./Diver)
Key Newcomers: Derek Melanson (Fr.), Tyler Heidgerd (Fr.), Brian Egan (Fr.), Ryan Asido (Fr.), E.J. Suski (Fr.)
Outlook: The Blue Knights graduated a large portion of their team from last season, losing 10 swimmers including Class LL finalists John Stevens, Austin Bull, Steve Sokolowski, and Dariusz Zajac, but are poised to be another strong contender within Class LL and the State Open meet. Southington returns a good number of swimmers that gained plenty of varsity experience a year ago, including senior State Open swimmers Zach Blake and P.J. Ramsey along with juniors Evan Bender, Ben Wakefield, and Brendon Egan, who were LL finalists. There is also sophomore Chase Galayda who was a LL finalist in diving.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the team will be the new talent filling in the ranks. The program has added 20 new athletes to the mix, all of which are expected to make an impact right away. That being said, Derek Melanson, Tyler Heidgerd, Brian Egan, Ryan Asido, and E.J. Suski are all freshmen to keep an eye on through the season and could not only pay dividends this year, but down the road as well.
“Our team overall goal this year, as it is each year, is to advance as many athletes to the state tournament as possible,” head coach Evan Tuttle said. “Although the winter swim season is the longest season of any high school sport, we aim to make it as long as possible by advancing as far as possible.
“We have a strong core group of student athletes who have been working tirelessly in the off season to make this season their best yet.”
Head Coach: Chris Zagorski (5th season)
Last Year: 2-10
Key Losses: Jarred Karal (Freestyle and IM), Josh Schilling (Backstroke)
Key Returnees: Isaiah Bandle (Sr./Freestyle), Lorenzo Samperi (Sr./Freestyle and Butterfly), Taegan Brochu (Jr./All-Around), Josh Donaghy (Jr./Distance), Graham Eyres (Jr./Breaststroke), Peter Beinasz (So./Breaststroke)
Outlook: The Blue Devils struggled throughout last season in terms of team wins, but those are simply preps for the state swim meets. It could be the same this year, just for different reasons. Head coach Chris Zagorksi has a number of young swimmers coming into the fold and with it will come some growing pains.
At the same time, this is the most athletes swimming for Plainville in more than seven seasons, meaning the head coach will have the ability to be more selective in events than in years past. It will just be about finding that balance between the veterans and the newcomers.
“The key this year will be for us to merge swimmers who have been competing for years with swimmers who are new to the program,” Zagorksi said. “I firmly believe we will be successful and the new crop of swimmers will be key contributors to our success this season.”
It is those veterans, however, that will set the tone and the Blue Devils have plenty of good ones, namely Isaiah Bandle, Lorenzo Samperi, Taegan Brochu, Josh Donaghy, Graham Eyres and Peter Beinasz that will look to lead the charge for the team to be competitive all the way through instead of just the end of the year meets. It could be fun to watch.
Head Coach: Gary Harrigan
Last Year: 6-5
Key Losses: Ray Niestat (Diver)
Key Returnees: Michael Allo (Sr./Breaststroke and IM), Robert Nagy (Jr./Freestyle), Maksym Ugrak (So./Butterfly), John Famiglietti (So./Diver), Tyler Coleman (Sr./Breaststroke), Sean Abrams (So./Backstroke), Jacob Mermelstein (Sr./Diver)
Outlook: This could be a rebuilding season for the Indians. The program lost a large group to swimmers to graduation, the most notable, All-American diver Ray Niestat. But Newington is also bringing back some with plenty of varsity experience that will be beneficial to the incoming freshmen looking to contribute.
It will be how fast the newcomers develop and grow that will determine how much success the Indians have before the postseason meets begin.
“The team goals are to remain competitive and improve over last year,” head coach Gary Harigan said.
Head Coach: Dan Thruston
Last Year: N/A
Key Losses: John Long, Adrian Wojtun, Nick Baruffi, Jay Patel
Expected Key Returnees: Connor Recck (So.), Kevin Klotz (Sr.), Steven Miano (Sr.), Thomas Wejda (Sr.)
Outlook: As it was last season, Berlin does not have a lot of seniors amongst its swimmers. The good thing is, just like last year, many of the younger swimmers will see plenty of valuable time against solid competition. The Redcoats only have eight seniors compared to 16 freshmen listed on their roster. As with many of the teams listed above, much of Berlin’s success in the pool throughout the regular season will be dictated by how quickly the younger swimmers acclimated to what could be a tough level of competition even before the playoff meets begins. But this could be a team to keep an eye on as the season
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach