Greyhounds face challenging stretch

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck High boys swim team came into the season as the NVL runner-up two years in a row. A majority of the swimmers that put the Greyhounds in that position have graduated and it’s up to this year’s team to prove it can compete at that level.

The Greyhounds are 2-1 heading into a stretch where they will be challenged. Weather-related issues have the ‘Hounds swimming two meets in two days this week. Naugatuck will Crosby/WCA on Thursday and Oxford on Friday.

Next week, there’s a showdown with two-time defending NVL champion Holy Cross on Tuesday at Kennedy High in Waterbury and a home meet next Friday against SWC perennial powerhouse Pomperaug, winners of 10 state championships in the last 11 years.

“We are definitely going to be challenged,” said Brian Goggin, a senior and one of four captains of the team. “We are all going to need to be ready to step up our game because if we are not, there is no sense in even going to the NVLs or the states for that matter.”

“I know the other three senior captains feel the same way,” Goggin added. “The guys who brought us to back-to-back NVL runner-up status have graduated and now it’s up to us to carry the load.”

Naugatuck head coach Jim McKee has been stretching his lineup and putting swimmers in events they are not familiar with to expand the team’s potential.

“You don’t know what you can do unless you push yourself beyond your limits,” Goggin said. “Coach McKee is getting us ready for that challenge. The biggest fear for any swimmer is burnout by focusing too hard on your event.

“One way to combat that is to spread yourself around and try other events, and in the same time we are giving our team depth to remain competitive. Coach McKee is pushing us to see what else we can do instead of staying in your comfort zone.”

The Greyhounds showed what they can do outside of their comfort zone in a 98-55 win over Kennedy on Jan. 9.

Austin Herb swam to victory in the 200 free (2:09.03). Goggin took first in the 200 IM (2:09.50) and in the 100 breaststroke (1:09.38). Elliot Dupont was first in the 50 freestyle (26.40), and Dale Wakeley finished first in the 100 freestyle (57.72). Bailey Ceryak finished first in the 100 backstroke, and Ryan Vincent won the 500.

William Brown won the diving competition (154.85) with Ethan Phaneuf second and Tsering Dhondup third. Spencer Maher finished second in the 200 IM and the 100 breaststroke.

Tommy Ayash was second in the 200 freestyle, Cameron Litwinka was second in the 100 butterfly, and Jon Lauer was second in the 500. Dave Green swam to third in the 100 butterfly.

“The seniors are working hard to fill the spots that were left by the swimmers that graduated,” Goggin said. “But we have juniors Austin Herb, Dale Wakeley and Joe Rafala who are very talented stepping up.

“Our sophomores, Bailey Ceryak, Spencer Maher and Alex Manasoiu, are very good swimmers and they are up for the challenge. You can’t count out any of the freshmen we have as they also are getting it done.”

The Greyhounds will be out of their comfort zone when they swim four meets in just over a week. It’s a challenge that is not only welcome but necessary if the Greyhounds want to compete for a league title.