With a 94-91 opening night victory over Joel Barlow, the Wildcats snapped a 33 SWC meet losing streak. Since the Senior Night win over Oxford in 2009, the Bethel High Swimming & Diving team have come close to beating their opponents in one of the best swimming conferences in the State. Perennial champions like Brookfield and Pomperaug make victories that much harder, but this year's team kicks off in grand style with a hard fought see-saw win over Barlow.
Bethel grabbed a quick lead with 1st places in the first three events. The 200 Medley Relay team led off with captain Tucker Bjornson, Ian Folan, James Canfield and freshman David Hayes anchoring the freestyle leg finishing first with a 2:01 time. Freshman star Gavin Lee made his high school debut with a half a pool win in the 200 Freestyle. Tucker Bjornson cruised to win in the 200 Individual Medley with a 2:19. Bjornson is coming off back-to-back seasons of top 20 state finishes in this event. Freshman Ian Folan finished 3rd with a 2:36 time on his way to scoring 9 individual points in his first meet.
Barlow fought back to take the half-time lead 40-38 after the 50 Free and Diving events, but Bethel came back again as Noah Curtis, James Canfield and Patrick Daly finished first, second and fourth in the 100 Fly. In a battle of two future stars, Gavin Lee overcame Barlow's fellow freshman Daniel Fry in an exciting 500 Free race and BHS took a 64-61 lead.
Barlow took the 200 Free Relay, but Bjornson dominated his signature event with a 100 Backstroke win with a 1:01 time. Folan, senior captain Molly Nichols and Noah Curtis came up huge in the 100 Breaststroke giving BHS a five point lead going into the last event and the chance of breaking the 33 straight SWC meet losing streak.
BHS coach McGowan knew she either needed a first place or both the second and third place finishes in the 400 Free Relay. In one of the most exciting races in my seven years, Barlow nipped the team of Gavin Lee, James Canfield, Kenny Darrah and Bjornson by less than a second to get the win. This left the result of the meet solely on the third place finisher and the team of senior first time swimmer Patrick McCourt, senior captain Aiden Ford, Molly Gallagher and Kevin Michalka took a lead in the last lap to win it for the Wildcats.
Eleven swimmers already qualified for the post-season championships, including Bjornson and Lee qualifying for States. Sophomore 200 Free Juliana Bell qualified for the Splash Invitational (state finals for girls swimming in the boys season) along with teammates Ford (Back) and Nichols (500 Free and Breast).
A truly enjoyable win and the season has a long time to develop all their swimmers to the March finals. The Wildcats are back in the pool Tuesday night against Brookfield to match their young, large co-ed team versus last year's SWC champion and #2 team in the State Open.