NAUGATUCK — Four years ago a young bunch of wide-eyed freshmen listened to their legendary swim coach, Jim McKee, talk about the glory days.
Naugatuck once ruled the NVL in the pool. The last such dynasty stretched from 2007-2010 when the Greyhounds won four straight NVL titles.
The Greyhounds headed into this season with something to prove after finishing runner-up to Holy Cross last year at NVLs. Maybe they didn’t have anything to prove to anyone in the league, but to themselves.
They wore the look of disappointment on their faces as the final numbers went up on the scoreboard last Friday at Kennedy High’s pool. The Greyhounds finished second at the NVL championship with 827 points to Holy Cross’ 844 points.
“We came into this season looking for some pay back,” senior Evan Bombery said. “We want to bring back the glory years for coach, who has been here for so many years.”
That group of ten wide-eyed freshmen began to make their mark in 2014 when Naugy finished fourth at the league championship. That year, Bombery finished eighth in the 500 and 11th in the 200, and Omari Solomon took 12th in the 200.
The rebuilding of the ‘Hounds had begun.
“It’s just an amazing feeling coming into the NVL championship meet knowing that you have a chance at the top spot,” Solomon said at last week’s NVL meet.
As successful sophomores, the Greyhounds struggled to find enough depth to compete, but the up-and-coming group of underclassmen continued to impress. Solomon finished 14th in the backstroke at the Class L meet and Bombery was 16th in both the 200 and 500.
The groundwork was set and progress was being made. When their junior season came along, Naugy was ready to take hold. Four swimmers made the state open last year for the first time since 2011, and Naugy finished as runner-up at the NVL championship.
Bombery, Solomon and P.J. Morrissey along with sophomore Brian Goggin finished first at the NVL championship in the 400 freestyle relay last year. They then took fourth at the Class L championship to qualify for the state open.
There is disappointment that comes with coming close to a title, but in reality the group of seniors laid the final brick on their path to lead the way back to the glory years.
Middle of the road finishes at the NVL championship have been replaced by consecutive down-to-the-wire runner-up finishes led by a group of ten seniors.
“It all comes down to the work we all put into this over the past four years,” senior Brandon Thomas said. “It’s a little nerve-racking to come into a championship meet, but at the same time it’s a tremendous feeling.”
Senior captains Bombery, Solomon, Robert Spino and Morrissey all finished in the top ten in various events at this year’s NVL championship.
Bombery finished second in the 200 freestyle and the 500 freestyle. Solomon took third in the 100 backstroke and seventh in the 100 freestyle. Spino finished fourth in the 100 butterfly and eighth in the 200 freestyle, and Morrissey was sixth in the 200 IM and the 100 backstroke.
In fact, eight out of the ten seniors placed in the top ten in events.
Eric Cruz was third in diving and eighth in the 50 freestyle. Matt Goggin took eighth in the 500 freestyle. Grady Beasley finished fifth in diving and tenth in the 50 freestyle. Thomas was the third leg in the 200 medley relay team that took fifth.
Seniors Matt Triscritti (200 freestyle relay) and Ben Rossi (50 freestyle, 100 freestyle) provided experienced depth for the Greyhounds.
They all provided the kind of leadership that builds a solid foundation for success.
“We have a strong group of seniors,” said McKee, who has over 350 victories and countless championships in his career. “But right behind them we have another strong class of sophomores. We should never be satisfied when we lose. We just need to come out and work a little harder. We had a great season, and I expect us to have another great season next year.”