Greenwich girls swim team seeking FCIAC, Opens revenge

The Greenwich High School girls swimming and diving team takes to the pool during a recent practice. — John Ferris Robben photo

The Greenwich High School girls swimming and diving team takes to the pool during a recent practice. — John Ferris Robben photo

What better time than now to start a new streak for the Greenwich High School girls swimming and diving team.

With a nice mix of talented veteran leadership and young outstanding talent, the Lady Cardinals are more determined than ever to bring the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Opens championship back home to GHS.

“I think this season we are working a lot harder than we have been in previous seasons,” Greenwich High senior tri-captain Katie Evans said. “We all seem more motivated and more determined. We are working hard in practice and just seem more fired up than usual. We have some really good incoming freshmen, so that’s making our season look a lot brighter. It’s going to be a good season.”

For seven consecutive seasons, Big Red has come up golden on the biggest stage swimming and diving in Connecticut by capturing the State Open championship. However, last season was a much different story, as fellow Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference rivals Darien and New Canaan came in first and second, respectively.

“There isn’t a streak out there that hasn’t been broken,” longtime GHS head coach Dick Hawks said. “They are all broken at some point. Cheshire’s best run was five in a row. Back in the 80’s, Greenwich had a streak of six years in a row of winning. I think it will be a while before anybody else can duplicate that. We knew it was going to come to an end eventually and it finally did.”

Although the Cardinals lost Opens, the season was still outstanding, as they went undefeated in the regular season and dominated second-place Cheshire High School by nearly 300 points to once again claim the class LL title.

“We need to look at ourselves, stay positive and say how we are going to get back to the top,” Hawks said. “Nothing’s over. We have 11 weeks to make things happen. The girls know how to win. They’ve done it before.”

Despite the loss of top-notch talent like Madeline Dunn, Meghan Mahoney, Kate Madoff, Hannah Bear and Jillian Leigh lost to graduation after Opens last year, Hawks and the Cardinals are still looking to be one of the top teams around this season.

“We are used to losing a bunch of seniors that scored a lot of points for us because by the time they are seniors, we have a lot of points walking out the door,” Hawks said. “It’s great to have them and a bummer to see them go. But we are fully aware that New Canaan, Wilton have strong swimmers coming back and Darien is loaded just like last year and have a ton of seniors. We are going to have our hands full every time we turn around but I think we will be right there with them.”

Leading the way will be senior tri-captains Evans, Kim Hill and Sara Rogers.

“We are very excited for the upcoming season,” Hill said. “We have a lot of very good freshmen that are really fast. We did lose a lot of good swimmers, but we are still expecting to have a very good season and we are starting off well. We are excited. There’s some pressure to do well here, but we come in with an open mind to have fun, improve and become better swimmers.”

When it comes to choosing captains, Hawks has tried every way to pick them. Some years he picked all the captains, other years he has picked one captain and the team picks the others and other years the Cardinals picks all the captains.

The latter is what happened this year and Hawks couldn’t be happier with the choice of Hill, Evans and Rogers.

“I think the team picked great leaders and great swimmers,” Hawks said. “They bring experience and they bring real effort to take care of their teammates in a lot of different ways, including being very unconcerned with their performance and immediately turning to their teammates to congratulate or encourage them. When you have leaders that do their piece and immediately go out to someone else and cheer them on, you know you got some great captains.”

Members of the GHS girls swimming and diving team take a break during a recent practice at the high school.

Members of the GHS girls swimming and diving team take a break during a recent practice at the high school.

Last year, Hill finished sixth in the State Opens 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:54.91 and fourth in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 52.59 seconds. In the class LL meet, Hill placed silver in the 200-freestyle and won the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 52.08.

While competing mainly in the freestyle events this year for Greenwich, Hill will also compete in a plethora of other events for the team.

Rogers has helped Greenwich gain valuable points, whether it was in the backstroke, breaststroke, the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events or the individual medley. Last year Rogers took 11th in the class LL 500-yard freestyle event.

“It’s amazing to be one of the leaders on the team and to be one of the people the younger kids look up to,” Rogers said. “It’s great to be there for them if they need someone to talk to. I definitely worked a lot harder in the offseason to improve my game. I think this team has the chance to win Opens. We are a close-knit team and it’s great to work with such a great team.”

In addition to helping two relay teams in both the class LL and Open meet, Evans was dominant individually. In Opens, she placed second in both the 200-yard individual medley (2:07.10) and the 100-yard breaststroke (1:05.61).

Her time of 2:04.25 in the class LL 200-yard IM wasn’t just good enough for first place, but it was also a meet record. In addition, she also won the 100-yard breaststroke in the class LL finals (1:05.11).

“It’s awesome to be one of the leaders on the team,” Evans said. “After three years of swimming at GHS, it’s great to be one of the people that the team looks up to. It’s an adjustment, but it’s a great feeling to be a captain.”

In addition to the captains, Greenwich should have a returning athlete in nearly every event.

Seniors Cristi Frias, Claire Baxter and Hollis Jomo were all Open swimmers last year and Hawks said that not only does he need them back there again this season, but he also wants them stronger, faster and healthier than a year ago.

Last year Frias took fourth in the 100-yard butterfly (58.63) and 15th in the 200-yard freestyle (1:57.58) at Opens. Baxter Baxter took 23rd in the 500-yard freestyle event with a time of 5:27.37 and Jomo finished 19th in that same event with a time of 5:20.08.

Other returners for Greenwich this year will be junior Porter Carlson and fellow junior Isobel Walker, who Hawks said is definitely ahead of herself from where she was a year ago.

Junior Patty Kohn is also returning, as is Ines Villemure, the team’s top returning diver. Last year in the class LL diving finals, Villemure took 13th overall with 282.70 points.

Emily Murphy is an experienced freshman diver and will help boost the team’s scores. Sophomore Riley Ennis was also at Opens as freshman and Hawks need all his returners to have really strong events.

Newcomer to the program, freshman Olivia Hallisey, is one of those swimmers that Hawks believes could change a team.

“She is really that talented and that into what she’s doing,” Hawks said. “She wants to be successful. I have no worries about her contributions and I think it will be huge for us, both this year and in the future.”

While the Cardinals are loaded with youth, Hawks said that the underclassmen need to have solid years this season for the team to be successful.

“I see a lot of young girls on the team this team,” Hawks said. “I think we have 12 freshmen and it’s been a long time since we had a freshman class that big at Greenwich. They are all capable of doing the workload, but we are going to need some of them not to use this year just to develop. We need some of them to contribute right away. Depth-wise we are thin in a couple of events, so we need some of them to get fired up and step right in there.”

While Hawks is uncertain on where the Greenwich High girls swim team will finish this season, the one thing he’s confident on is that Big Red will focus on doing things the right way and working hard to maintain the integrity of the program.

“We need to hold that standard, no matter where we finish,” Hawks said. “Whether it’s class LL’s, Opens or the FCIAC championships, the standards don’t get lowered. The expectations of the program, the way we behave in and out of the pool and the decision we make are always the most important. The standards here will remain at the highest level.”

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