The previously unbeaten Cheshire boys swimming and diving team trailed Fairfield Prep by a wide margin with three events remaining Tuesday afternoon at Fairfield University's Recplex pool. Jesuits coach Rich Hutchinson, as is often customary within the swimming coaches fraternity, then sent out his remaining swimmers as exhibition competitors to keep the score from becoming more lopsided.
In the end, Prep posted a convincing 105-72 victory, sending the Rams to their first loss of the season. The score was 105-34, a 71-point spread, after the 200-yard freestyle relay when Hutchinson reacted to the vast separation between the teams on the scoresheet. Cheshire received all of the final 38 points available in the 100 backstroke, 100 breaststroke and 400-freestyle relay to account for the final margin.
Cheshire entered Fairfield with a 7-0 overall record and a 6-0 mark in the SCC, in addition to its 20 state class or open championships from 1977 to 2010. Prep, with three state championships and two State Open titles since 1980, improved to 6-1 overall and 6-0 in the conference.
Senior Bjorn Davis was Prep's lone two-event winner, finishing first in the 50 freestyle, with a time of 24.01 seconds, and the 100 free in 53.57. He was part of the victorious 200 freestyle relay, along with Nicholas Wargo, Brandon Cole and Bryce Keblish. Wargo won the 200 individual medley, Cole claimed the 500 freestyle and Keblish took gold in the 100 butterfly.
"Prep has been dominant for the last half-decade or almost a decade," said Cheshire coach Fran Connolly. "We knew the score of the meet was going to be in their control with their numbers and depth. We were not in any delusion that we'd have a real say in the outcome.
"We were just trying to be competitive with them. I wanted some kids to rise up and have some good swims, and they did that," Connolly said. "Actually, they have a core of sprint freestylers, mid-distance freestylers and medley relays that are super strong right now."
Prep had won each relay and individual event, including Jackson Rotondo's 196.05 score to capture the 3-meter diving, as the score climbed to 105-34. The meet opened with the Jesuits' victory in the 200 medley relay, swum by John Kealy, Stuart Stritzel, Luke Morrison and Matthew Lee. Complementing the victories by Davis, Wargo, Cole and Keblish, was John Hoin's win in the 200 individual medley.
Prep coach Rich Hutchinson views the season as a progression through the dual-meet schedule into the postseason meets (SCC, Class LL, State Open). He said he is pleased with where the Jesuits are at this juncture.
"Cheshire is probably one of the blue-chip programs in Connecticut," Hutchinson said. "They haven't been as strong the last few years, but they are a young, strong team that's on the rise. I wanted to see how we'd compete with them in the depth positions. I wanted to see if we could match up well with them there (places three, four and five)."
Before Prep entered exhibition swimmers, Cheshire collected more third- through fifth-place finishes than Prep by a count of 13-7. Broken down by place -- the Jesuits had more third-place swimmers by 4-3; the Rams won the battle for fourth place by 5-2; Cheshire garnered five of the six fifth-place swims. Yet in the competition for first and second place, worth more points (6 for first, 4 for second, 3 for third, 2 for fourth, 1 for fifth), the Jesuits had a decided edge, 15-3, for an advantage of 82-12 on the scoreboard.
Hutchinson was quite impressed by Brandon Cole's win in the 500 freestyle, along with second-place Cheshire's Kyle Bishop (4:18.56) whose times were quite fast for midseason. Cole's time of 4:12.48 was a season's best and his fastest time in the Fairfield U. pool. "They were remarkable times for this time of the season," Hutchinson said.
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Fairfield Prep 105, Cheshire 72
Records: C--7-1, 6-1 SCC; FP--6-1, 6-0 SCC. Event winners: 200 medley relay--FP (John Kealy, Stuart Stritzel, Luke Morrison, Matthew Lee) 1:56.67; 200 freestyle--Nicholas Wargo (FP) 1:58.58; 200 individual medley--John Hoin (FP) 2:14.51; 50 freestyle--Bjorn Davis (FP) 21.01; Diving--Jackson Rotondo (FP), 196.05 points; 100 butterfly--Bryce Keblish (FP) 1:00.74; 100 freestyle--Davis (FP) 53.57; 500 freestyle--Brandon Cole (FP) 4:12.28; 200 freestyle relay--FP (Wargo, Cole, Keblish, Davis) 1:41.84; 100 backstroke--Ryan Mostoller (C) 1:07.34; 100 breaststroke--Michael Goodrich (C) 1:14.7; 400 freestyle relay--C (Karl Bishop, Alex Bauer, Alex Cheruk, Kyle Shadeck) 4:00.23.