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Nighthawk Swimmers Edge Weston For Third In Conference

Photo: Andy Hutchison

Caelan Ritter swims during the 200 yard individual medley event at the South-West Conference championships on March 7. Ritter came in 24th in the event in a time of 2:30.24. Ritter scored five points for his team by placing 14th in the 100 breaststroke race.

MONROE — Newtown High School’s boys’ swimming and diving team got third place in the South-West Conference championships, earning 316 points to overcome Weston, which scored 313. The swimming events unfolded at Masuk High on March 7, two days after the diving competition took place at New Fairfield High School. Pomperaug of Southbury, with 640 points, won the 11-team championship, and Brookfield (436) was second.

It was a win, of sorts, for the Nighthawks since they had lost to Weston by just three points in a regular-season dual meet. Not to mention, Coach Zach Gauvin was thrilled with the performances of his team members against some of the best swimmers in the conference (and the state given Pomperaug, Brookfield, and Weston are the defending Class L, M, and S state champions, respectively).

The Nighthawks recorded personal best times throughout the lineup, leading to several top-ten finishes among a few dozen competitors in many of the races.

“I thought the team exceeded my expectations in almost every way,” said Gauvin, adding that this was the best all-around performance the boys have had in the conference meet since he began coaching in 2011.

Newtown’s 200 yard medley relay team of Richard Huffman, Seth Barrett, Matt Argraves, and Owen Gray, placed fourth in a time of 1:46.02 to earn 34 points in the first race of the night.

The Nighthawks had a pair of top-ten finishes in the second event, the 200 freestyle, as Chris Lafky placed eighth in 1:53.56 to score 13 points, and Zack Payne came in ninth in 1:55.15 for 12 points.

Hannah Makris was tenth in the 200 individual medley, making her final touch in 2:11.66 for ten points. Seth Barrett was 13th in the IM, finishing in 2:13.34 for six points.

In the 50 yard freestyle race, Jacob Branchflower was 13th in 23.74 for six points, and Gray placed 17th in 24.18 for two points.

Branchflower earned fourth in the 100 butterfly and Dawson Stout was right behind him, finishing in fifth. The Newtown swimmers had times of 55.39 and 56.37 to earn 17 and 16 points, respectively. Argraves was 15th in the butterfly race, finishing in 59.53 to score four points.

Newtown had three swimmers among the top ten in the 500 freestyle. Lafky came in fourth in 5:05.75 for 17 points, Richard Huffman placed fifth in 5:08.48 for 16 points, and Payne was seventh in 5:11.41 for 14 points. Andy Braun was 18th in the 500, completing his race in a time of 5:33.84 for one point.

In the 200 free relay race, the Newtown group of Gray, Branchflower, Payne, and Lafky earned fifth in 1:34.65 for 32 points.

Huffman had a runner-up finish in the 100 backstroke race, making his last touch in 55.65 for 19 points. Pomperaug’s James Davey won the race in 53.68 and scored 22 points. Newtown’s Tommy Horan, Stout, and Mike Poulter all scored in the backstroke event. Horan came in fifth in 58.92 for 16 points; Stout cracked the top ten with a ninth-place outcome in a time of 59.74, good for a dozen points; and Poulter finished in 1:04.30 to score two points.

Barrett earned ninth in the 100 breaststroke, finishing in 1:06.48 for 12 points. Makris was 12th in 1:09.66 for seven points, Caelan Ritter was 14th in 1:11.23 for five points, and Mike Lally came in 18th in 1:12.21 to earn a point.

In the final swim event of the meet, the 400 free relay, the Nighthawks were fourth as Payne, Branchflower, Lafky, and Huffman combined to finish in 3:29.00 and score 34 points.

In the diving competition, Ryan Nathenson came in 11th with a score of 260.85, good for eight points.

“All season we had the goal of trying to be top three at SWCs, which is no easy task. We achieved this goal by swimming best times across the board, including athletes that are not fully rested or shaved down. This meet shows that we haven’t peaked yet but are well on out way to showing what we can do at the state level,” Gauvin said.

Newtown’s swimmers and divers will participate in the Class LL state championships at Wesleyan University in Middletown on March 19. The top team members from throughout the state will participate in the State Open at Yale University in New Haven on March 22.

Newtown won’t have to deal with Pomperaug, Brookfield, or Weston in the LL meet, but there stands to be plenty of tough competition from the likes of last year’s champion, Greenwich and runner-up Fairfield Prep, among others.

“This was a great first step in the championship season,” Gauvin said of his squad’s SWC meet performance. “And I hope that this run of success can continue for the next couple weeks. The team has set the bar extremely high so the upcoming state championships will be a serious test to see where we stand.”

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