Family atmosphere fuels Hawks’ success

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

BEACON FALLS — Greg Aldrich has been through the highs and lows of the boys swimming program at Woodland over the last four years. Now, starring in his senior season, he can’t believe the way the Hawks have swum so far this winter.

“I’m a little surprised how well we’re doing this year,” said Aldrich, who’s led Woodland to a 4-1 start and a 4-0 mark in the Naugatuck Valley League. “I knew we’d be good because we had a lot of freshmen, but we’re doing really well. It feels like every year I’ve been here, we keep growing. We keep having more opportunities to put more guys in different events.”

The sizable roster — more than two dozen for the first time in coach Tom Currier’s tenure — has even posed a problem for the coaching staff, albeit a good one.

“I’m sitting doing lineups with (assistant coach Mike) Magas, and it’s hard because we have a lot of good kids,” Currier said. “You definitely have more options. You can allow your big guns to try different stuff. It’s good for them so they don’t get bored mentally and physically. When you do the same thing two times a week, you don’t see much change. When you can do something different, you see bigger drops (in times) and it fuels the fire.”

Aldrich has been the star for the Hawks in the pool so far this winter. In a Jan. 8 victory over Crosby-Waterbury Career, Aldrich won the 100- and 200-yard freestyle events and also swam on the winning 200 free relay squad. It wasn’t the first time this season that Aldrich has been part of three victories in a single meet.

“I feel really good,” Aldrich said. “I swam in the offseason for the first time this year and it’s paying off. I’ve dropped my times a lot, even from my tapered times last year.”

Aldrich hasn’t been the only standout in the pool. Riley Clark, the two-time defending NVL diving champion, is breezing through his dual-meet competition. Jeff Varesio has returned from an illness and Currier said he expects Varesio’s sprinting to improve. In Varesio’s absence, sophomore Noah Scott picked up the slack in the sprints.

“Noah Scott is sprinting like a champ,” Currier said.

Currier also pointed to the efforts of sophomores Pat Zieba and Cameron Heeman as well as freshmen Tyler McDowell, Tyler Cyr and Jake Arisian.

In the Hawks’ 97-65 win over Crosby-WCA, Varesio claimed the 200 IM, Arisian took the 100 butterfly, and Jackson Bradley won the 100 backstroke. Woodland also claimed two relays: the 200 medley (Zieba, Ryan Curtin, Zack Arisian, Joe Flaherty) and the 200 free (Aldrich, Zack Arisian, Scott, Aiden Kennedy).

The Hawks followed that meet up with a 94-68 win over Kennedy last Friday. Aldrich (200 freestyle, 100 freestyle), Jake Arisian (200 IM), Varesio (50 freestyle), Zac Arisian (100 butterfly), DJ Mulligan (diving) and Aiden Kennedy (500 freestyle) all won individual events.

Aldrich thinks part of the reason the Hawks have been so successful in the early part of the season has been the atmosphere in which the team practices and competes.

“I’ve done other sports and clubs at this school, and this feels like more of a family,” Aldrich said. “We don’t just hang out at practice; we hang out outside of it. I don’t really know how to explain it, but it feels like my second family.”

Woodland will visiting Seymour on Tuesday before hosting Sacred Heart on Friday.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated from the version published in the Jan. 17 edition of the Citizen’s News to include information from meets swam played after press time.