Greenwich High girls swim team eager to learn from Darien meet

The Greenwich High School swimming and diving team knew it was in for a challenge Monday afternoon when facing Darien High School.

Although the Cardinals only captured one first place finish against an experienced Blue Wave roster, head coach Lorraine Najam was still pleased with her young team’s performance.

“Darien is a really good team,” Najam said. “They are experienced, they are fast, they have a lot more upperclassmen and it was an awesome test for us. I was really pleased.”

Darien built a quick 33-13 lead after three events and went on to upend the Cardinals 103-78.

“I am really happy with the way we performed today, considering we are right in the middle of training,” senior captain Isobel Walker said. “We had six really hard practices in a row because a few of our meets earlier were canceled. We are all really tired, but our main focus is the end of the season and that’s what we are working towards. I am content with how we did today.”

Greenwich’s lone victory came via the diving portion of the meet, as senior captain Ines Villemure captured the gold.

“Ines is our captain and have a lot of young divers,” Najam said. “She’s doing a lot with them to run dry land a lot. She’s setting a great example and today kind of showed off her leadership qualities. It was a big meet and a big moment. We needed diving really bad today because it was still a relatively close meet at that point and she came up big. Her focus and her poise today showed through and her experience was on her side. I was really proud.”

For Villemure, consistency was the key to her victory against the Blue Wave.

“I think I did pretty well,” Villemure said. “I was consistent throughout the whole meet, which was something I was trying to do. I didn’t want to do poorly on some dives. I wanted to do well on all my dives and staying consistent really helped me during this meet. Darien is a great team. It’s really important for us to compete in this type of meet because it prepares us for the end of the season championships. Everyone tried their best and got some really good times.”

While Big Red didn’t have another top finisher, a plethora of athletes fared well.

In the 200-yard freestyle event, Kelly Montesi was mere inches away from the gold, touching the wall with a time of 1:59.73. The same went for Montesi in the 100-yard butterfly event, as she went head-to-head with Darien’s Maggie Orem. However it was Orem that took first place with a time of 1:00.22 and Montesi finished second with a time of 1:00.46.

“I think the team did really well today and we tried our hardest,” Montesi said. “They were a very good team and were tough competition. They are all really fast, but I thought we did well. This meet will prepare us for what is going to come down the road soon.”

Big Red was also close to the gold in the 50-yard freestyle, as senior Sophie Jahan was in a photo finish to the finish line. But Darien’s Lauren Rutledge took home top honors with a time of 25.07 seconds. Jahan was a close second, grabbing a time of 25.27.

Jahan also competed in the 500-yard freestyle event and took home second place with a time of 5:20.62, only seven seconds behind Darien.

“Our team did really well today,” Jahan said. “I think we did a lot of hard training leading up to this meet and knew Darien was going to be a hard team. Darien is kind of scary because they have a lot of really good swimmers, but we are working hard as team and we still have a chance down the road. We knew we had to step up our game and support each other. That is what motivated us to do so well.”

Walker finished the meet for Greenwich with a pair of bronze medals. In the 100-yard backstroke she took home a time of 1:02.37, while also finishing third in the 100-yard freestyle, touching the wall with a time of 56.79.

Greenwich’s Riley Ennis also had a strong performance. In the 100-yard breaststroke, she took home third overall with a time of 1:12.21. Ennis also competed in the 200-yard individual medley and took home a fifth place time of 2:20.44. Not to be outdone was Brooke Collins, as she finished with the bronze in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:15.82 and grabbed fourth in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:12.61.

In all three of the relay events, Big Red was in a battle to the end with Darien. Competing in the 200-yard medley relay, the foursome of Walker, Collins, Taylor Schinto and Jahan took home a time of 1:52.90 and was less than a second away from Darien. In the 200-yard freestyle relay, the team of Ennis, Ainsleigh Winget, Julia Meril and Annika Bjerke grabbed silver with a time of 1:46.64.

Rounding out the relay events was the team of Montesi, Walker, Ennis and Jahan, as they finished the 400-yard freestyle relay second overall with a time of 3:47.66.

For Najam, she knew battling the Blue Wave was going to be a challenge. Darien is considered one of the heavy favorites to win the state championships. On the other side of the pool, Big Red has 16 freshmen on the roster that see their fair share of time in the pool.

“We are working on race strategy and stuff,” Najam said. “Turns mean a lot more in an event where you are actually racing at a high school meet compared to a club, where you are racing yourself. We area learning to break down our races and have them analyze them. It was a good meet for that because they were pumped up and wanted to swim fast. I think 90% of the time we were swimming our best times. I am satisfied with those results.”

Despite competing against a talented Darien team after a plethora of challenging practices, there’s little rest for the Lady Cardinals. Starting today with a meet against Staples High School, Greenwich will compete in four meets in nine games and will battle Westhill/Stamford and Wilton before competing out of conference with a meet against Glastonbury.

“We have a tough stretch of the schedule coming up,” Najam said. “I think, for a lot of our kids, this meet was a good benchmark to see where they are at, as far as training goes. This meet will help our race strategy training and it was a good gut check for everyone. After we put in three or four solid weeks of hard training, the kids that took their races fast swim right around their best times. The swims today that might have been disappointing for some of the kids, they kind of have to ask themselves whether they are pushing their first half of the race as hard as they can.”

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