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Greenwich, Darien set to contend for State Open swimming title

Updated 9:34 pm, Friday, November 16, 2012

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  • Co-captain Maddie Dunn and the rest of the Greenwich swim team will battle rival Darien for the CIAC Open title Saturday at Yale. Photo: Helen Neafsey / Greenwich Time
    Co-captain Maddie Dunn and the rest of the Greenwich swim team will battle rival Darien for the CIAC Open title Saturday at Yale. Photo: Helen Neafsey

 

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For seven years, the Greenwich High School girls swimming team has held what Darien has never possessed -- the State Open championship.

After winning the FCIAC title and recording an impressive showing in the Class L meet, the Blue Wave believe this is their time to garner the CIAC State Open championship plaque. The Cardinals, of course, won't relinquish their crown without a fight.

On paper, Greenwich and Darien enter Saturday's State Open Swimming Championships at Yale University as the favorites to contend for the title, with New Canaan, Cheshire and Amity Regional also making a splash.

"We're going to be swimming upstream all day Saturday, I think it's going to be one of the closest State Open meets ever," Greenwich coach Dick Hawks said. "Our job is to stay in the game because Darien has so many swimmers in there."

Greenwich, which captured the State Open title last year with a team score of 480 points, 49.5 points ahead of runner-up New Canaan, goes into Saturday's noon competition fresh off a strong performance in the Class LL championships.

Amassing a team score of 816, the Cardinals easily won their third straight Class LL title Wednesday at Wesleyan University and had 16 swimmers qualify for the State Open meet.

"We're really excited about competing in the State Open, we had some amazing swims at the LL finals and we're looking to improve our times at the Open," said GHS senior tri-captain Kate Madoff, who will swim the 100 butterfly. "Darien had some awesome swims as well and they have a real good team, so we're excited to swim against them."

The Blue Wave also put themselves in prime position to contend for the Open title by flourishing at the Class L meet, which like the LL competition served as a qualifier for the State Open. Darien sends 14 swimmers into Saturday's event, but had four divers competing in Friday's State Open finals, compared to one for Greenwich.

"I think it should be a close meet between Greenwich, Darien and New Canaan," Darien coach Marj Trifone said. "Greenwich always swims well at the Open, they're always so well prepared for it and their relays are awesome. Whatever happens, our team is determined to leave it all on the table and do our best."

The Cards are seeded first in the 200-yard medley relay (1:48.92), an event they won at the State Open last fall. Wilton is seeded second (1:49.44), followed by Darien (1:50.12). Junior Kim Hill is seeded fifth for Greenwich in the 200 freestyle (1:54.04), while Amanda Bieler (1:54.65) and Courtney Ferreira (1:54.65) of Darien are seeded sixth and seventh, respectively. Staples' Verity Abel is seeded second (1:51.88), while Jenna Egan of New Canaan is the fourth seed (1:53.87).

"I did pretty good at the Class L finals, so hopefully I can hold on and go a little faster," said Hill, who is also seeded third in the 100 freestyle. "Competing in the Open gets easier every year because you know the game, you know how to play it and how to prepare."

Greenwich junior standout Katie Evans is the top seed in the 200-yard individual medley after winning the LL championship in a state record time of 2:04.25. Darien senior Olivia Leunis is seeded second (2:05.93), while Stephanie Czulewicz of Norwalk/McMahon is the fourth seed (2:10.12) and senior Erin Dunstan is seeded fifth (2:10.49).

"Everyone has pre-race jitters, but we have been preparing for this for a while, so we're ready for it," Evans said.

Said Hawks: "Katie is the cleanest technician I have ever coached. Every single stroke she swims is so under control."

Evans is seeded second in the 100 breaststroke (1:05.11), while Leunis is the top seed (1:04.63).

"We are both going to be gunning for the win in both events, so it's going to be exciting," said Evans, who watched her older sister Laura, now a collegiate swimmer, compete at the State Open four years ago as a seventh grader. "We all have our work cut out for us, but we're ready for the challenge."

With four swimmers competing in the 100 breaststroke, 100 backstroke and 500 freestyle, Darien certainly has the all-important depth advantage.

"If we do come out with a win it's going to be due to our depth," Trifone said. "We have to do it as a team, everyone has to have a good day for us to come out on top. It's going to come down to who has more confidence and which team really goes after it."

New Canaan senior Maddie Rusch is the second seed in the 50 freestyle (:23.63), while GHS senior tri-captain Maddie Dunn is seeded third (:23.89). Dunn set a Class LL and school record Wednesday.

"I was really happy to break the record for our school, that's what really motivated me," said Dunn, who is also seeded sixth in the 100 freestyle. "Tomorrow, I'm going to swim it like there's no tomorrow. Coach told us `you have eaten all the vegetables, this is the time for the ice cream and the Open is like the cherry on top. We're looking forward to seeing a lot of good swims from everyone."

Rusch of New Canaan is the No. 2 seed in the 100 butterfly (:55.68), followed by Cardinals junior Christina Frias (:56.98) and Wilton's Caroline O'Brien (:57.73).

"We definitely know what we have to do, now we have to go out there and swim fast," Frias said. "We have to be prepared and be in the zone."

Darien senior Caroline Orem is the third seed in the 100 backstroke (:58.58).

"We are seeded in a lot of events, but in some events we are seeded a little lower, so we have room for improvement," Trifone said. "There's going to be a lot of movement in this meet and hopefully, we'll benefit from it."

New Canaan is the top seed in the 200 freestyle relay (1:36.22), while the Cardinals are seeded first in the 400 freestyle relay (3:30.16, the state record time they set at Wednesday's LL meet).

"We're hoping to stay in there until the end and have the breaststroke and four free relay be factors," Hawks said. "You can't complain about going to the last event and your four best swimmers are in there to decide the meet."

Said Trifone: "It's always nice when it's close at the State Open. Having three teams from the FCIAC going for the title is going to be great."

david.fierro@scni.com; 203-625-4423

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