By Robert Rogers
At Friday night's SWC Swimming Championship at Masuk High, Bethel High scored 98 points overall, the highest total since 2007 and topping last year's 84 points. While Brookfield took the overall championship, Bethel had their own excitement as sophomore Tucker Bjornson broke the BHS record in the 200 individual medley with a 2:11.97, topping the previous record of 2:14.05 by Kevin Thai in 2007.
With a pre-meet goal of scoring 100 points and last year's 10th place finish, the Wildcats got off to a good start as freshman Julia Morton took 18th place overall at the diving championships held on Thursday night at New Fairfield. Morton scored 196.36 in her 11 dives and took one point. Junior Alex Nackid finished his strong season with a 23rd place finish.
The packed crowd at Masuk saw the 200 Medley Relay kick off the meet, Bethel took 10th place with an action packed race as freshman backstroke Olivia Wooton and senior breaststroke Johnny Esposito built a 2 second lead for Sarah Whalen, who was facing on of the top swimmers in the SWC, New Milford's Tyler Gangell in the 50 butterfly leg. The junior multi-sport star took the challenge and nearing the wall to touch off the final freestyle leg, the New Milford team was disqualified for leaving the blocks early. Kenny Darrah finished strong to take 10th overall with the team's best time of 2:00.73.
The 200 Freestyle saw junior Darrah finish 27th and sophomore James Canfield collecting a 30th place finish.
Next up was the 200 IM and the Bethel swimmers were fired up. Tucker Bjornson broke the BHS record with a 2:11.97 and finished 9th overall. Olivia Wootton finished 24th with a 2:27.90, improving her best time by over 2 seconds. Sarah Whalen took 27th overall with a 2:30.39, finishing almost 5 seconds faster than her best.
In the 50 Free, the exciting sprint race, senior captain Kevin Gallagher finished 14th overall with his best time of 24.39. Other qualifiers were freshman Kevin Michalka in 36th place with 27.55, senior Chris Wong with his career best of 27.66, senior Johnny Esposito with 27.73. Also swimming were two seniors, Juan Ayala and senior captain Katie Bozzuti, who set the BHS girls record with 27.99.
Next up was the 100 Butterfly with BHS sole entry James Canfield finishing 27th overall with a near best time of 1:11.44. Kevin Gallagher added 4 team points with a 15th overall finish in the 100 Free with a 55.15.
In the distance race, 500 free, junior Sarah Whalen was coming off a top finish in the girls state meet last weekend wih a 5:57, swam hard for a 25th place finish and fellow junior Kenny Darrah closed fast for 28th place with a 6.07.32.
Excitement was building as the BHS 200 Free Relay team has been coming together very strong and moving up the team ranks. This night, Darrah, Bjornson, Canfield and Gallagher would knock off 2 seconds and finish 8th overall with a 1:42.79. The BHS B team of Davidson Abiali, Katie Bozzuti, Kevin Michalka and Molly Gallagher would top their season best with a 1.54.48. Bethel's strongest event, the 100 backstroke saw Bjornson finish 10th overall with his personal best of 1.01.34 and Olivia Wootton broke her own BHS girl's record with a 1.07.03 and a 19th place finish.
Johnny Esposito wrapping up his high school swimming career with his personal best finish of 1.17.49 in the 100 Breaststroke. Junior Molly Nichols came up with a 29th place with a 1:21.32.
Going into the final race, the team goal of 10th place and 100 points was a little bit of a longshot, needing to finish 9th overall. After the three legs, Gallagher, Wootton and Canfield found themselves in 11th place, well behind 9th place Masuk and trailing Newtown by almost 2 seconds.
In a great final leg, Bjornson posted a 55 flat, taking 10th place overall by over a second. Also in the B team finals, Whalen, Bozzuti, Michalka and Chris Wong finished a hand ahead of Joel Barlow's B team. Wong swam a strong 1:01.14 to take the race and avenge a previous race against the Barlow B team which saw them win by less than a .10 of a second. The BHS team heads to the Class S state trials this weekend in Plainville, with the diving championships held on Wednesday.