Mission accomplished for Hawks at NVLs

WATERBURY — With some of the top swimmers in the state competing for Seymour at the Naugatuck Valley League girls swim championships earlier this month, Woodland’s Mike Magas and the Hawks knew a repeat title wouldn’t be a realistic goal.

Instead, they decided to shoot for personal-best times in diverse events and a top-three finish as a team.

That’s exactly what the Hawks accomplished.

Woodland finished third in the team standings and benefited from numerous personal-best efforts in a wide range of events at the NVL finals Nov. 2 at Kennedy High.

“I was totally ecstatic,” Magas said. “We lost 11 seniors, and not just any seniors — we had a top class that helped us win an NVL championship (in 2017). Everyone thought this would be a rebuilding year and we’d be down, but the girls were determined to not be down that far.”

Seymour, as expected, won nine of the 12 events to run away with the league championship. The Wildcats’ strengths, though, also may have helped Woodland.

“If anything, it gave more motivation to try to compete with them,” Magas said. “We wanted to be somewhat in the same class as them, even though they have some amazing swimmers.”

Woodland didn’t pick up any gold medals, but a number of individuals swam well. They included Kyla Behrle (third in the 100 butterfly, third in the 500 freestyle), Morgan Swift (fourth in the 100 breaststroke), Aly Rojcov (sixth in the 50 free) and Casey Brooks (sixth in the 200 free).

The Hawks also placed among the top six in all three relays. The 200 medley relay squad of Rojcov, Swift, Behrle and Camille Terrell was fourth, as was the 400 free relay team of Terrell, Brooks, Behrle and Rojcov. The 200 free relay group of Swift, Meghan Letourneau, Hailey Bernier and Emily Beyer was sixth.

Magas pointed to the efforts of Behrle, Rojcov, Swift (who he said had an “amazing swim in the breaststroke”), and Bernier (who was “phenomenal” and “sorta came out of nowhere in the finals”), among others, as being outstanding in the pool.

Woodland vaulted into the third-place team spot because of its depth.

“In every event except one, we had four girls qualify (for finals),” Magas said. “That was a big bonus for us. We had a lot of girls swimming events that they weren’t swimming at the beginning of the year, so they stepped in to help us out in events they didn’t even know they could do.”

The Hawks’ biggest boost came in diving, where they placed four divers among the top nine. Alyssa VanAlystyne led the group with a second-place finish, followed by Kayleigh Theroux (fourth), Adrianna Byczko (sixth) and Shaelin DiGioia (ninth).

“It’s like that Mastercard commercial — it’s priceless,” Magas said. “Having four girls score high points was invaluable.”

VanAlystyne and Byczko continued their success at the Class S diving championships Nov. 8. VanAlystyne placed fifth, while Byczko checked in at 16th.

Woodland competed in the Class S swimming trials Nov. 10 at Cheshire High before the swimming finals Wednesday at Wesleyan.