By Robert Rogers
The official BHS Swimming & Diving season came to an end with a strong 79 point 18th place finish out of 29 Class S teams. It was the second highest point total in the team’s nine year history. Coaches Katie McGowan and Tate Rogers saw 14 swimmers get some valuable state trials meet experience as well as a few seniors to get one more time to break some personal bests. Two swimmers moved onto the State Finals as did all three relays.
State Class S Finals were held on Tuesday, March 13th at the Wesleyan University pool. Sophomore Tucker Bjornson, coming off setting the BHS record in the 200 IM at the SWC Championships, qualified for two individual events. Bjornson took 18th place in the 200 IM with a 2:13.12 and an amazingly fast 10th place in the 100 Backstroke with a 1:00.09. Tucker stated at the year-end party, “It was tough to know I missed sub-minute by so little, but it will come.”
Senior captain, Kevin Gallagher, finished his high school swimming career with a personal best time of 24.23 and an 18th place finish in the 50 Freestyle. Gallagher missed qualifying also for the State Finals in the 100 Free by having a dead-heat tie for the final 24th place spot at 54.94 with a swimmer from Haddam-Killingworth High. Meet officials elected to hold a swim-off to decide the qualifier and Gallagher swam his personal best with a 53.80, but missed qualifying by less than a finger length. In true Kevin style, you still couldn’t find anyone happier as he knew he gave his best.
The State Final relays saw the 200 Free Relay taking a 17th overall place with a 1:40.89. Knocking a few seconds off the year’s best time, the team has good future as three swimmers return next year. Junior Kenny Darrah, Bjornson and freshman Olivia Wootton set a fast pace for senior Gallagher to anchor for the fastest 200 Free relay time since the 2007 school record holders at 1:37.29.
200 Medley Relay will all be returning next year as Wootton (back), junior Molly Nichols (breast), junior Sarah Whalen (fly) and Darrah posted a 2:04.29 and an 18th place finish of the 29 teams. Nichols stated at the year-end party, “All my fellow breaststrokers (Johnny Esposito and Davidson Abiali) are graduating, so I’m going to need some new buddies.”
The State Finals meet ended with the 400 Free Relay and the BHS team took a strong 16th place with a season best of 3:45.04. Sophomore James Canfield led off with a strong 58.74, followed by Gallagher, Wootton and Bjornson, who capped off the season and his four event meet with a 53.94 in the anchor leg.
In making it to the State Finals, the Class S Trials were held in Plainville on Saturday, March 10th. Bethel qualified for eight individual events and three relays. The 200 Medley relay led off the meet with a 20th place finish with Sarah Whalen (back), seniors Davidson Abiali (breast) and Juan Ayala (fly) and Kenny Darrah. Both seniors finished their BHS swim careers with personal best times in the Plainville High pool. Davidson, who swam for three years, finished with a 39.14 leg and first year Juan swam an awesome sub-32 fly leg.
Junior Kenny Darrah swam a 2:10.76 in the 200 Free, just a little over his personal best, finishing 32nd overall. He also qualified for the 500 Free and swam a 6:03.84, his personal best and finished 31st overall. Kenny’s senior year will see him as a team leader and top freestyler.
Junior Sarah Whalen, who broke the BHS Girls record for the 500 Free this year at the Splash Classic, swam a 6:03.48 for a 30th overall finish. Sarah’s name appears on the BHS Girls records for two relays and the 500 Free, topping former record-holder Ellen Xie from 2009. Next year’s team might be the best in years with Whalen’s strong senior leadership and competitiveness.
Freshman Olivia Wootton wrapped up her freshman campaign with nearly a huge upset by knocking off almost 2 seconds from her qualifying time. Olivia finished 26th overall with a 1.05.65 in the 100 Backstroke, missing qualifying by less than .5 seconds. Just ahead of her was Weston’s junior Lydia Sykes, who Olivia bested in a head-to-head race during the regular season and will return as two of the top female swimmers in the SWC next year. Olivia’s freshman year was amazing, from qualifying for the SWC Championships in every event to setting four BHS Girls records (200 Free, 200 IM, 100 Free and 100 Back).
The 200 Free Relay for the Trials saw Coach McGowan write-in a lineup of future stars and great BHS swimmers. Freshman stars Juliana Bell and Kevin Michalka, both of whom came on during their first year to post some of the best freshman times in years. Bell is a strong multiple stroke talent who is going to be counted on for years as a strong point maker and Michalka is the next freestyle strongman that every team needs. The balance of the relay that finished finished 20th with a 1.53.45 was the two four year senior swimmers, Chris Wong and Katie Bozzuti. Wong finished the year with his best 100 Free time of 1:00.14 at the SWC’s and his multiple stroke talents, especially in the 100 Fly carried the team, including its win over Platt/Maloney.
Senior captain Bozzuti finishes a great BHS career from her freshman year earning points at the state relays to her breaking the 50 Free Girls record at 27.99 at this year’s SWC. Recognized for her scholastic musical talents as well, Katie will be remembered as one of all-time BHS Swimming stars.
This year at the season-end party, Belardinelli Tires donated $150 to the Children’s Tumor Foundation in memory of the Zowine Family in the names of three swimmers who showed their love and dedication to the sport. Ashley Zowine, who passed this winter from neurofibromatosis which also claimed the wonderful lives of her father, Henry and brother, Zack. Ashley was the captain of the 2005 BHS team and Zack was a long-time manager in helping his mom, Margie, who was the founder with her husband and head coach from 2004-07.
The three swimmers awarded were Tucker Bjornson, who dedicated his post-season which included a BHS record to his former summer swim coach Ashley; senior Caitlin Pirro, who never stops smiling or being the best friend to everyone on the team as well as never saying no to any challenge. Caitlin always the only smiling volunteer for the 100 Fly, one of the most grueling events. Katie Bozzuti was the third recipient of the Zowine award as she truly represents the love of the sport and her teammates and coaches.
The party held at the BHS cafeteria was attended by almost all 36 members of the team, their parents who provided the best pot-luck dinner ever and the highlight of every year, the season recap movie provided by coach McGowan. Once again thanks to all the parents who helped throughout the year, Belardinelli Tires for their generous donation to the Zowine award and to the team’s Booster Club and mostly to the greatest coaches and the nicest group of swimmers for their hard work and honest affection to each other.
Hope to see everyone at the BHS SWIMMING CAR WASH this Saturday from 9-12 across from CVS.