Woodland girls in position to swim to success

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BEACON FALLS — With three all-state athletes all on the pool deck, the Woodland girls swimming and diving team could be poised for its most successful season ever in 2011.

Senior freestyle/IM swimmer Katie-Jean Hinckley, senior diver Dayna Chucta, and senior all-purpose swimmer Jen Tavares, a transfer from Cheshire High, all earned all-state honors a season ago and could lead to a plethora of first-place finishes for the Hawks.

But while first-place finishes may seem great—and they are—winning a swimming meet takes more than just a few superstars, as eighth-year head coach Mike Magas said.

“A lot of events should see first-place finishes from those girls,” Magas said. “The biggest thing we’re going to need is the other girls to step up. You could technically still lose an event point-wise with them getting first. The important thing is the other girls to step up and get the third, fourth, fifth places.”

Magas hopes that is a strong possibility with a loaded roster returning most of its key swimmers from a year ago.

“We do have quite a bit of depth,” Magas said. “It’s just a matter of them working hard at practice to realize that they have to step up.”

In addition to the three all-state athletes from 2010, Woodland has a number of very talented swimmers which should shore up most events and each high marks in each.

Juniors Chrissy Leeper (free, fly, IM) and Sydney Corneau (free, fly, back) could be poised for breakout seasons in their three events. Seniors Carolyn Luddy (breast), Emily Soulier (free), and Sam Solomon (free) are all solid single-event specialists.

Juniors Rachel Gerard (fly, back), Liz Martin (diving), Sarah Parker (free), Whitney Stow (free, fly), Kim Thrasher (diving, breast), and Emily Trumbley (back, IM) should also provide solid depth while sophomores Anna Boris (free, fly), Katie Porter (breast), Katie Blair (free, fly), and Brianna Christiano (free, back) are also expected to contribute alongside freshman Emma Sardinskas (free, back, fly, IM).

If the depth is there, all eyes will be on the three stars, especially Hinckley. The senior has been setting school records since her freshman year and has set her sights on doing even more.

“I want to go to the State Open, make all-state, and drop at least 10 more seconds in my [school-record] 500 [freestyle],” Hinckley said. “I hope this year we can set some awesome relay records that will take years to break and to hopefully set a good example of how hard you work is what your outcome will be.”

Magas is excited to see what Hinckley has in store for this fall.

“She’s working hard,” Magas said. “She set a goal for herself to break her records again, especially in the 500 [free] and the backstroke. To swim in college, she’s going to have to step it up even more.”

Chucta is also expected to be among the league’s top divers again and could return to the State Open, but her value to the team is beyond point contributions.

“She’s very valuable,” diving coach Katelyn Annino said. “She’s been here for a few years so she’s our leader. Her leadership skills are very good.”

Tavares is also a welcome addition to the team after winning the Class L title in the 200 free, 200 free relay, and 400 free relay and placing in the top four of three events at the State Open with Cheshire last season.

With the headline talent and solid depth, Magas thinks this team has a chance to compete for its first Naugatuck Valley League championship.

“It should be interesting,” Magas said. “Torrington and Watertown are, in my opinion, the clear-cut favorites. In order for us to upset them, we’re going to need the backup swimmers to step up. If they do, we’ll be right there with them. If the second-line swimmers don’t step up, we won’t be able to compete with them. We’ll see what happens. Every day will be a new adventure for us.”

Woodland’s season begins Tuesday when it hosts East Catholic at 5 p.m. The Hawks start league competition on Friday afternoon with a meet against Holy Cross at Kennedy High.