Junior captain Tucker Bjornson led the BHS Swim team to 96 points last Wednesday night at the Class M State Finals in the Wesleyan pool. It was the the highest State Finals point total in their 10th anniversary season. Nine swimmers swam at the Class M meets, including four who qualified for the State trials in individual events.
Bjornson swam a BHS Record in the 200 Individual Medley with a 2:09.99 time. The 17th place state finish was almost 2 seconds faster than his previous school record from last year. In his signature event, he also collected a 10th place finish in the 100 Back with his best time ever of :58.07. Tucker started the day also on a high note when his 50 Backstroke leg to begin the 200 Medley relay was his fastest split ever at a ridiculous :26.70. Overall, Bjornson collected 39 points for the Wildcats, breaking his previous team record of 37 set as a freshman.
Freshman star Gavin Lee swam in the 500 Free Finals and collected 21st overall with a time of 5:25.04. Gavin had a wonderful first season, becoming only the 5th swimmer in BHS history to score over 100 head-to-head meet points in their freshman season; joining Wildcat legends Bjornson, Kevin and Benson Thai and Andrew Murphy.
Ian Folan narrowly missed the Finals, finishing in the first alternate position with a 25th place finish at the Trials Saturday in Branford. Folan knocked his time down to 1:09.80, almost 2 seconds faster than his previous fastest and missed the 24th spot by less than .06 seconds. Folan, another freshman, had the best improvement of all BHS swimmers in the post-season which included his incredible drop of over 7 seconds in the SWC 200IM championship.
First year senior Patrick McCourt was the fourth Wildcat to qualify for State Trials in individual events; collecting a 34th place finish in the 100 Butterfly with his personal best of 1:05.10. McCourt, who qualified for every event for the SWC championship except the backstroke during the season, was still finding his best stroke late in the season before swimming a 1:05.66 at the SWC in the 100 Fly to qualify.
James Canfield, junior star, had one of the best days in the pool ever for BHS. Scheduled for three freestyle relay legs for the day pitted against the best in the Class M states, James answered the challenge with the three fastest times he ever swam. His :24.32 in the last leg of the 200 Medley and his opening leg of :56.00 in the 400 Free relay were crucial in the BHS relay finishes. Overall, James collected 16.5 points to the total.
Alot of the excitement of the day came the performances of the relay teams. Not since 2006 had BHS posted at least a 10th place relay finish at States, but this year's 200 Medley Relay of Bjornson, Folan, McCourt and Canfield swam their fastest time of the year at 1:51.26 to collect 10th overall. Freshman Noah Curtis swam the butterfly leg at the State Trials and his season best would drop this team to less than a second from the BHS record for next year.
Also knocking off a huge amount of time and closing in on the BHS record was the 200 Free Relay team, Freshman David Hayes led off with his season best :25.25, followed by senior Kenny Darrah's blistering :24.71, sophomore upcoming freestyle star Kevin Michalka pulled past two good teams from Avon and Waterford to hand off to Canfield who posted a :24.36 to earn a 18th place in the most chaotic of events. The team finished with the 14th fastest time at the Finals, but had a 4 second slower Trial qualifier that put them in the slower heat.
The 400 Free relay ended an exhausting day with a first place heat finish. Back and forth in the heat with Canfield ending the first leg in second, despite his :56.00, facing a top 100 free qualifier; Michalka climbing back into the lead with his personal best :57.77 and a great block start; Darrah (56.66) gave a half-body lead back to North Haven. Bjornson, ended his day by overcoming the anchor leg deficit with a :52.95 and taking a near two body lead.
Head coach Katie McGowan celebrated with her team on their excellent year with a team banquet party this Friday night with over a hundred athletes, managers, fans and family members. At the team awards, McGowan recapped how the team's success resulted from all the hard work they all put into their practices. Collecting five meet wins this season, the same they collected in the previous five years, was a whole team success as everyone pushes each other to improve and do well.
Next year looks very promising, but the amazing seniors from this team will be missed: Four year seniors Serena Coons, captain Kenny Darrah, captain Aiden Ford, captain Molly Nichols and Yvonne Palacios. Coaches thanked these special seniors, notably Palacios who was remembered for her extreme dedication. BHS Soccer star turned SWC qualifying breaststroker Alex Corbo, who's family at Capri's Pizza helped cater the party, and McCourt were very successful first year swimmers. Managers Rebecca Joseph and Rebecca Jones helped with all the hard work during the meet season. Jones, the BHS record-holder in diving with a single meet total of 168.45 earned in her sophomore year, returned from her high school career ending injury to also help work with the divers.
The Alumni awarded two honors and gifts this year. The performance of the year was given to the 200 Medley team C team for their clutch third place finish in the first event of the first meet of the year. Amanda Basso, Teresa Vlash, Yvonne Palacios and Lindsay Guercio all clinched the first team win of the year in a very close meet with Joel Barlow. Narrowly beaten out for the best race of the season were Tucker's jaw-dropping 52 second anchor leg to clinch the Barlow win; James Canfield's huge 50 Free & 100 Free wins against Platt to secure that win and the memorable "Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs 100 Breast race" between Molly Nichols and Patrick McCourt.
The Alumni's major annual award, the Zowine Award, given to the swimmer who best reflects dedication, love of the sport and best teammate qualities went unanimously to freshman Michael Pena. The Zowine Award remembers team founder, captain and star swimmer Ashley, team manager and friend for many years Zack and their father Henry who have all passed, survived by coach Margie and sister Stephanie, who all dedicated so much to create and grow BHS Swim into the largest and #1 coed swim program in the state. The Alumni fund donates $50 in Michael Pena's name to the Children Tumor Foundation for research to find a cure for neurofibromatosis. Previous winners of the award were Serena Coons, Caitlin Pirro, Katie Bozzuti and Tucker Bjornson.
Thank you for another season of following our Bethel High Swim team. Swim practices are notoriously grueling, mostly because of the workout and crazed coaches, but sixty years later, I also remember it because of the silence you endure while your head is under water. It's remembering that which helps all the fans of Bethel Swim cheer that much louder for our #1 program kids.
Let's build a pool someday in Bethel (open myself up again for the comments on my insanity with throwing town money away as all age groups health benefits & water safety are not to be mooched; but only for the four Fairfield county towns that don't have pools, of which we are the largest....) The little hamlet that produced a dream creator like P.T. Barnum watches as we see all our surrounding towns produce dreams-to-reality Olympic trial swimmers (Brookfield, Ridgefield, Southbury, Newtown with access to pools for the thousands of hours needed.....), but votes in 1967 (514 to 1,229 for a pool at BHS); 1986 when Meckauer pool closed and the "Turtle Dodgers" faded from memory; 1989 (970 to 2,883 for not wasting taxpayers money) and 1995 (1,621 to 2,157 when Peter Eckert's design for an amazing and THEN SO affordable Meckauer Park pool was cruelly defeated.)
Yet the #1 request on the town's website, "Where can you swim in Bethel?"