BEACON FALLS — When Mark Spitz and Michael Phelps come up in a conversation about a high school swimmer’s legacy, she must have done something right.
Woodland High girls swimming coach Mike Magas invoked the names of the two greatest American swimmers of all time when he tried to put Dia Gawronski’s career with the Hawks in perspective.
“It’s going to be a legacy that will last many years,” Magas said. “I talked with (assistant coach) Matt Demirs on Friday, and we were saying that it’s going to take a long time for some of her records to be broken. Spitz set some records in the ’70s, and it took until Michael Phelps came around to break some of those.”
Gawronski, whose name will be plastered all over the Hawks’ record board for years, finished her Woodland career Saturday at the State Open, where she picked up a pair of top-six finishes in the 200 freestyle (sixth, 1:54.93) and the 100 butterfly (fifth, 57.17). That performance followed up a Class S meet in which she picked up a pair of individual gold medals in the 200 freestyle (1:54.20) and the 100 butterfly (56.85), as well as silver and bronze medals in the relays.
“I’m really proud, and it just shows all of the work I put in,” Gawronski said.
The senior led the Hawks to a fifth-place finish with 347.5 points at the Class S meet last week, their best effort in program history.
“We don’t have a true club team to feed our program, so it really speaks to the work the girls put in at the high school,” Magas said.
It was yet another program first, shortly after Woodland captured its first Naugatuck Valley League championship in a nail-biting finish with Seymour. That league title was especially special for Magas, the longtime coach who has steadily helped build a perennially competitive program in the Woods.
“It just goes to show that the hard work that the girls have put in through the years to build the program finally paid off,” Magas said. “It’s emotional for everyone involved.”
Though Gawronski raked in the most medals during the championship season, she and Magas know how much of a team effort it took. Gawronski’s fellow captains, Brooke Pope, Kyla Drewry and Jordan Williams, were instrumental in the growth of the team’s underclassmen.
“All of them pulling the sophomores and freshmen, making them put in the work — they reassured the young swimmers that they were going to do well if they just followed their lead,” Magas said. “We were the only team in the league this year that had four girls in every individual event (at the NVL championships). That was big for us.”
At the Class S meet, Pope took eighth in the 50 freestyle (26.24) and the 100 freestyle (57.61).
The Hawks took second place (1:44.57) in the 200 freestyle relay with Gawronski, Alexandra Rojcov, Camille Terrell and Pope. The team of Gawronski, Casey Brooks, Kyla Drewry and Pope finished third (3:50.14) in the 400 freestyle.
Gawronski’s legacy at Woodland won’t be limited to the pool. Last week, she signed a national letter of intent to swim at the Division I level for the Air Force Academy, located in Colorado Spring, Colo. Her commitment there also means she’ll be committing to at least five years of service after graduation.
“It speaks volumes about her as a person to devote her life to service to our country,” Magas said. “She’s an amazing student taking all sorts of AP classes, so she could attend anywhere. She chose the service academy. It goes along with her personality, just trying to help anyone she can.”
The Republican-American contributed to this article.