Lack of depth doesn’t slow Hawks down
BEACON FALLS — It’s becoming the year-after-year story for the Woodland boys swimming season: The Hawks have a roster of about a dozen strong and they’re ready to go.
Considering the small roster hamstrings Woodland’s depth during meets, the Hawks’ sixth-place finish in the Naugatuck Valley League and 10th-place showing in Class S last season were pretty impressive. The 13 boys and girls on this season’s roster hope they can do even better.
The small team creates some challenges, but they’re ones that the Hawks don’t mind.
“Even though we have a small team, we always seem to be really close,” senior Lauren Tompkins said. “That’s the good thing about it. We’d like to have a bigger team because if we go up against a team that has 30-40 kids, they automatically beat us. But either way, we fight and we have fun doing it.”
The team benefits from good out-of-the-pool relationships with each other, Tompkins added.
“After every meet we usually hang out with each other, and even on the weekends we hang out with each other,” she said. “We’re really close-knit.”
Andy O’Dell, the Hawks’ top returning senior, agrees with Tompkins in terms of the team’s strong camaraderie.
“We’re closer together,” O’Dell said. “We’re like a family. We cheer each other on a lot more.”
In the pool, O’Dell will be one of the team’s most important swimmers. He will swim in a pair of relays as well as the 100-yard butterfly and 200-yard freestyle. He led Woodland at last year’s postseason competitions, earning a pair of top-five performances at the NVL meet and three top-10 showings in Class S.
O’Dell earned All-NVL honors for his efforts and his name is posted several times on the Woodland record board. He hopes to add his name a few more times before he’s done.
“It’s pretty chilling,” O’Dell said of seeing his name hung above the pool. “It would be nice if they’d stay up there for a while.”
The Hawks return the rest of the 200 medley relay team that finished fifth in Class S a season ago. O’Dell was joined by Alan Katrenya, Aidan Music and Jimmy Jensen on that team. All three, along with JD Dyckman, figure to be key performers in the pool this winter.
Tompkins, who will swim in a pair of relays along with the 100 backstroke and the 500 free, has high hopes for freshman Julie Hinckley. Hinckley is the younger sister of Katie-Jean Hinckley, one of the top swimmers in school history.
“You know her name,” Tompkins said of the younger Hinckley. “She swims year-round and she’ll be very good.”
The early part of the season will be all about getting in shape, Tompkins said. Several athletes play other sports so they can’t swim all year.
“Right now we’re not very conditioned because we’ve been out of the pool for almost a year,” Tompkins said. “We have a few kids who swim year-round, so that will help, and we’ve added some new people.”
Woodland opened the season Dec. 18 versus Sacred Heart, the three-time defending NVL champions. The Hawks fell to the Hearts, 91-81, but put up a fight against the reigning champs. Woodland came with first place finishes in the 100 fly, 500 free, 100 back, 100 breast and the 400 free relay.
The Hawks won’t have their next meet until the new year, when they host Masuk on Jan. 3.