BEACON FALLS — Knowing the next day they faced one of the Naugatuck Valley League “big dogs,” as Woodland head coach Tom Currier put it, the Hawks gathered Monday night for that time-honored team-building ritual: the team dinner. But as of Tuesday, the Black and Gold may be in the market for a new tradition—and it’s not because they lost to three-time defending league champ Naugatuck, 94-85.
“We had some bad meatballs last night, so a lot of [the boys] were sick today,” Currier said, laughing. “We’re trying to track down who made the meatballs.”
The Greyhounds showed little mercy for their unhealthy hosts, until the meet was in hand and they swam the last three events as exhibitions. Naugy won the first eight swims, led by Kyle Conrad and Chris Branco, who captured two apiece.
Conrad scorched the field in the 200-yard freestyle in one minute, 54.48 seconds, almost six seconds faster than Woodland’s Will Gerard, who claimed second. He was even more dominant in the 100 free, winning by almost eight seconds, in 50.89.
Branco showed off his versatility and endurance, earning victories in the 200-yard individual medley, in 2:12.65, and the grueling 500 free, in 5:09.32.
Conrad and Branco’s performances were predictably strong, but NHS head coach Jim McKee was equally pleased by some of their teammates who didn’t finish first.
“I tried to put one top guy in each race; in a couple I had two,” he said. “And I wanted to see how my third and fourth guys would do and put some responsibility on them to perform. … And they did a nice job.”
That included the trio of swimmers McKee entered in the 100-yard breaststroke, one of the end-of-meet exhibitions.
“What I told the guys was I had a couple guys I might have to put in the breaststroke, if the breaststroke was gonna be a decider because I did not have my fastest breaststrokers in there,” he said. “So I told these guys, ‘You better be ready. I may have to pull you out of that last relay to go here. So the pressure was on those guys to beat somebody. And I just didn’t have to change it.”
Though their times didn’t count, Greg Wallisa and Dan Sigetti finished only .26 and .3 seconds, respectively, out of second place, and George Vygoder’s time would have been good enough for fifth.
“I go so far as to tell them, ‘If you’re in an exhibition race and you beat somebody on varsity on the other team or on our team in the official race, I’ll give you those points toward your letter,” McKee said. “… I want every kid to understand—not feel like, understand—that their efforts are important.”
The Hawks’ strongest event was diving, won narrowly by Lindsey Boland with a score of 163.65. Tim Korzinksi and Naugatuck’s Joe Caputo tied for second at 162.53.
Currier admired his squad’s efforts, even if they didn’t always result in victories.
“They did great,” he said. “They did the little things right—turns, starts and good work ethic. … Still a lot of building before NVLs. Definitely have the two big dogs—Sacred Heart and Naugy—to prepare against. We’ll see how it goes the rest of the season, but I think we’ll do good at NVLs.”