Woodland swimmers working hard, having fun

Woodland seniors, from left, Zach Arisian, Joe Flaherty, Zach Hummel, Jeff Varesio, Greg Aldrich and Riley Clark will lead the boys swim team this season. –KYLE BRENNAN

BEACON FALLS — Just a week into the preseason, the scene at a Woodland boys swimming practice was one that someone might expect for a group that’s been together for years.

Christmas music blared from the speakers while swimmers alternated laps in the pool with jokes on the deck. Coach Tom Currier even paused an interview for a moment while one of his six seniors slid across the deck to crack a joke. Currier could only laugh and marvel at the group he has this year — especially his six-man senior class.

“I have a great senior class,” Currier said. “They’re all role models. They know how to work hard and have fun. They’re excited to be here, and they display that with the young ones. I’m going to cry when those six leave.”

The senior group includes Zach Arisian, Joe Flaherty, Zach Hummel, Jeff Varesio, Greg Aldrich and Riley Clark. Those six are among the Hawks’ most talented athletes in the water, too.

Clark is the two-time defending Naugatuck Valley League diving champion and holds the school record in both the six- and 11-dive events. He also finished fourth at the Class S championship last season.

He’ll be a major point-getter in dual meets and the championship season, but the Hawks will gain big points in plenty of other spots. Aldrich racked up top-five finishes in the 100-yard breaststroke and the 200 individual medley at the NVL championships, and Arisian (freestyle and butterfly), Varesio (freestyle sprints), Flaherty (freestyle sprints) and Hummel (500 free) also qualified for the state championships as juniors.

Four other underclassmen also qualified for the state trials last year, and Currier is especially excited about his incoming class of 11 freshmen — the largest group of rookies he’s had during his tenure at Woodland.

“They all came from the middle school, so they all have the basics,” Currier said. “It’s really nice — I’ve had a team of 12 before.”

The depth available with about two dozen athletes is a luxury that the Hawks don’t often have — and it should allow them to be more competitive in dual meets and championships.

“It’s wonderful,” Currier said. “We’re going to have full lanes, full relays. Being able to get maybe three or four people in the finals of NVLs, and even in dual meets, fighting for the fourth- and fifth-place points instead of just giving them away. It’ll be fun.”

Still, Currier said he won’t judge his team based on wins and losses this season, which begins Tuesday with a meet against Oxford.

“I’m not stuck on winning or losing,” Currier said. “I think we’re going to have a good year because we have more kids, but I think having fun and getting better as individuals is more important than anything. If these kids try their hardest, I can never expect anything more from them.”