Hawks exceed expectations

Woodland’s Cameron Heeman competes in the 500 freestyle during the Naugatuck Valley League swim championship March 1 at Kennedy High School in Waterbury. –KEN MORSE

WATERBURY — The Woodland boys swim team outperformed even its coach’s expectations at last week’s Naugatuck Valley League championship.

Boosted by Riley Clark’s second straight diving championship, the Hawks swam to sixth at the league meet at Kennedy High. Woodland posted 477 points for a sixth-place finish in a meet that was dominated by defending champion Holy Cross (891 points).

“I have to say it was better than expected,” Woodland coach Tom Currier said. “They were all doing personal-best times at the end of the year, and they just kept getting faster. It was great to see. They did wonderful. They had a great attitude and worked hard.”

Clark, a junior, defended his NVL diving championship by racking up 389.25 points. He edged Holy Cross’ Marcas Racevicius by fewer than six points to claim the title.

“Before the meet, I was ready to defend the title, but when it started I wasn’t actually doing my best,” Clark said. “In the middle of the meet, I thought it was already lost when I looked at my scores. I started getting better and more focused. I was very happy. Now, hopefully I can go for (an NVL) three-peat next year.”

“It’s amazing,” Currier said. “The hard work he puts in every day — he deserves it. He’s got a talent that’s hard to match.”

Clark also picked up a fourth-place finish at the Class S championship Tuesday. He earned 358.65 points, behind champion Andrew Buehler of Sheehan (441 points).

Woodland boys swimming head coach Tom Currier, right, and some of the Hawk cheer  during the Naugatuck Valley League swim championship March 1 at Kennedy High School in Waterbury. –KEN MORSE

Woodland didn’t finish higher than fourth in any swimming event but relied on depth to rack up points. The top individual finishes came from Greg Aldrich, who placed fourth in the 100-yard breaststroke and fifth in the 200 individual medley. The Hawks also placed fourth in the 200 medley relay.

But Woodland’s scoring came from plenty of sources besides Clark and Aldrich.

“We had a lot (of swimmers) in finals — probably the most I’ve had in a long time,” Currier said. “That helped us stay with Watertown (fifth place) and edge Seymour (seventh place), just that overall depth — Victoria (Iannone) sneaking into the (200) IM final, three freshmen making it into finals. I was very pleased.”

Woodland will now look forward to the state championships. The preliminary trials are set for Saturday at Plainville High with the finals set for Tuesday at Wesleyan University.

Aldrich (200 IM, 100 breast), Zack Arisian (200 freestyle, 100 butterfly), Chase Chura (200 IM), Jeff Varesio (50 free, 100 free), Noah Scott (50 free, 100 free), Joe Flaherty (50 free, 100 free), Zack Hummel (500 free), Pat Zieba (100 backstroke), Jake Stow (100 back), Ryan Curtin (100 breast) and Zac Bertrand (100 breast) qualified for individual events.

“I’m hoping they go faster,” Currier said. “Greg and Jeff Varesio should. We didn’t get as many (swimmers) into states as we usually do. The (qualifying) times were a lot faster than they’ve been in a while. We do have some newcomers: Joe Flaherty and a couple of our freshmen, Pat Zieba and Noah Scott. It should be good.”