WRHS swimming bounces back

In 4 minutes and 17.3 seconds the Woodland girls’ swim team showed the promise and potential of this season and beyond.

Head Coach Mike Magas had faith in three sophomores and a junior to win the 400-yard free relay, the meet’s final race, for a come-from-behind victory over Holy Cross. The team of junior Katie Hinckley and three sophomores, Sydney Corneau, Rachel Gerard and Chrissy Leeper, posted a time of 4:17.30 to lead the Hawks to a 95-90 victory over the Crusaders last Friday.

The coach came away impressed.

“They were nervous,” Magas said of Hinckley, Corneau, Gerard and Leeper. “But they went out and performed admirably.”

The final race capped an event filled with standout performances for the Hawks, who bounced back after a loss to Southington in their season-opening meet. Hinckley won the 200 free (2:06.32) and the 500 free (5:33.11) while Corneau took the 100 free (1:01.6).

Leeper took second in the 200 IM (2:32.67) and the 100 fly (1:10.77), while Carolyn Luddy placed runner-up in the 100 breast (1:26.95).

Magas said the match up with Holy Cross allowed him to put his younger swimmers to the test. And they passed.

“I went with my gut feeling,” said Magas, who held off using some of his younger swimmers earlier in the meet. “I knew we were only going to be separated by a few points going into that final race.”

In Woodland’s meet against Southington last week, the Hawks were overmatched by depth. Southington featured 44 swimmers on its roster and returned all of its key performers.

Conversely, Woodland entered the Southington meet having lost five seniors to graduation last year, all of them four-year swimmers.

Magas said he has counted on Amanda Gagne and Catherine Goodwin, the team’s senior co-captains, along with fellow seniors Angela Vallillo and Chloe Flanagan, to lead by example. While they share their experiences with the younger swimmers, it’s clear that the four seniors can’t be counted on to win meets by themselves.

“In the past, the younger swimmers looked to the older ones to win races and meets,” Magas said. “We don’t have that luxury this year.  We needed to let the younger swimmers know they have the ability to win meets.”

Even in the opening meet against Southington, Hinckley won the 200 and 500 free races, and Leeper won the 200 IM and the 100 fly. Corneau lost the 50 free by .7 seconds and also placed second in the 100 free.

These early performances could be a showcase of things to come for the Hawks, who are about to face a difficult stretch.  Over the next week, the Hawks will face Torrington (Sept. 24), West Haven (Sept. 29) and Watertown (Oct. 1).

“The toughest part of our schedule is coming up,” said Magas, who then put a positive spin on the challenges to come: “This will only provide benefits for us in the future.”