Fairfield Ludlowe's season of improvement in girls swimming and diving, fueled by a group of talented freshman, produced a school record in the 400-yard freestyle relay Tuesday night at the CIAC Class LL championship meet at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. That relay qualified with the No. 22 seed, out of 24 schools, for Saturday's State Open at Yale University.

Ludlowe finished 12th of 18 teams at the state meet, after placing 16th of 20 teams a year ago.

Three Falcons records were set on Oct. 30 at the FCIAC Championships when they finished 10th of 13 schools, including the 400 relay in 3:55.03 in which they were ninth of 12 teams. The 200-yard freestyle relay set a new standard of 1:47.55 in placing 10th of 12 schools in the conference meet, and freshman Hannah Arman set the Ludlowe mark in the 100 backstroke in 1:02.28 by finishing 10th.

By adding freshman Brianna Auray to the mix in the 400 relay, coach Sara Peck got the desired result on Tuesday, which was to improve the time from the Class LL trials Nov. 9 at East Hartford High School. Auray, who swam the anchor leg, teammed with Arman, sophomore Brittany Marson and freshman Ingrid Duffy to finish in 3:50.11 in placing ninth of 17 teams and fashioning the new record.

"Coming into last night, we were hoping to get back to what we were doing in the FCIACs," Peck said. "I was hoping to get back to 3:55, and we dropped five seconds (off the previous record). I'm extremely pleased." The Falcons 400 relay was ninth in 3:58.61 at the Class LL qualifying meet. The lowering of the record by 4.92 seconds represents a vast improvement, she said.

That record in the 400 was part of a trend of faster efforts by the relays in the state finals three days later. The 200 freestyle relay of freshman Grace Holmberg, senior Acacia Galle, freshman Katherine Thornton and sophomore Natalia Nawrocka lowered their time by 2.56 seconds from the preliminaries to finish in 1:47.83 and in 12th place. The 200 medley relay (Arman, Duffy, senior Scout Curtin, Auray), during the meet's opening event, knocked 2.32 seconds off its preliminary team by placing 11th in 1:59.53.

"I was definitely more pleased with the medley and 200 free relays," Peck said. "Any drop in time is always a reason to celebrate."

The top individual event performance by a Falcon in Class LL belonged to senior Kim Cortelessa, who placed 10th in diving. She was 15th at the FCIACs. Senior Kelsey Tague was 14th in diving on Tuesday, after placing fourth in the conference meet.

In the pool at Southern Connecticut, Arman was 11th in the 100 freestyle and 12th in the 100 backstroke; Auray was 11th in the 50 free and 23rd in the 100 breaststroke; Duffy was 16th in the 200 free and 20th in the 500 free. A team highlight, Peck said, was Curtin qualifying for the finals in the 100 butterfly and finishing 23rd in the championship meet.

"I can only see us going up from here," Peck said. "We're definitely going to be stronger competition for the other (FCIAC) teams. This is has been a stepping stone year to bigger and better things. The fact that we had four (freshman) girls qualify in seven events is a huge success for our team."

One of Peck's goals for the season was to have a Ludlowe swimmer, diver or relay make it to the State Open, and that was accomplished by the 400 freestyle relay.

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