Infusion of youth sparks excitement for Hawks

Woodland seniors, from left, Chase Chura, Victoria Iannone and Jake Stow will lead the boys swimming team this season. –KYLE BRENNAN

BEACON FALLS — Most high school coaches take for granted the fact that their athletes already know how to compete in their sport when they come to tryouts as freshmen.

Woodland boys swimming coach Tom Currier definitely doesn’t take that assumption lightly, and that’s why he’s so excited about the half-dozen rookies who joined the Hawks for the upcoming winter season.

“It’s nice to get kids who already know how to swim,” Currier said. “I had a stint for a while where we had to teach kids how to swim (as freshmen), but I’m looking forward to this year. They all worked with the middle school last year. We’re not teaching them how to swim this year; we’re teaching them how to be faster. That’s huge.”

The freshmen will mix with about a dozen returners as the Hawks look to make a splash this season. Currier isn’t the only member of Woodland’s program who is looking forward to all the new blood in the pool.

“I’m excited for the new freshmen,” Woodland senior Jake Stow said. “They’re some of the best freshmen we’ve had, not just because they’re good swimmers but because they have good attitudes.”

Stow is one of three seniors on the team, along with Chase Chura and Victoria Iannone. Other key returners include Greg Aldrich, Zac Bertrand, Zack Arisian, Jeff Varesio and defending Naugatuck Valley League diving champion Riley Clark.

Clark won the league title last year as a sophomore, scoring 394.45 points over 11 dives to edge Sacred Heart’s Ben Gomes by 1.05 points. Clark holds Woodland’s six- and 11-dive records, and his presence will provide a boost to the Hawks in more ways than just the scoreboard.

“It’s definitely comforting knowing we’re not going to give away points in diving,” Currier said. “Riley himself brings more than just points. He’s a great sportsman, a great leader and a great part of the team. Getting him for another two years is wonderful.”

Aside from Clark’s diving abilities, Currier foresees his team’s strength being in the backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly events.

“We only have one or two year-round swimmers, so competing against the bigger dogs is challenging,” Currier said. “We seem to have a lot of strong off-stroke swimmers and kids who can do IM work. I’m happy about that.”

The Hawks also have plenty of togetherness and camaraderie that makes the athletes happy to be in the pool with each other every afternoon.

“We’re one big family,” Iannone said. “We’re together for three months, so we do team bonding activities outside of swimming.”

“This team is really friendly and we’re all working well together so far,” Chura agreed. “I’m really looking forward to how we’re going to do later this season.”

Woodland will open the season Tuesday at Oxford. The Hawks will host Northwestern in a nonleague meet next Thursday, and they’ll have two weeks off from dual meets before resuming their slate in 2018.