Hawks off to best start in program history

BEACON FALLS — Woodland boys swimming coach Tom Currier didn’t know his team would get off to the best start in program history this season, but it didn’t take long for him to notice he had something special on his hands when the Hawks hit the water for the first time.

“I (knew) within the first week or so,” Currier said. “These kids are definitely starting to click. I saw pretty early on that we had a full roster of decent swimmers. I’m going to have three or four really strong kids for NVLs and states, and that’s great.”

Woodland sprung out to a 5-1 start to the dual-meet season, including a 5-0 record in Naugatuck Valley League competition after a crucial win last week over Seymour.

The Hawks have a good mix of high-end talent and depth, which was on display in recent wins over Kennedy and Seymour. Against the Eagles, Greg Aldrich won two events (100- and 200-yard freestyle), while Jake Arisian (200 individual medley), Jeff Varesio (50 free), Zack Arisian (100 butterfly), Aiden Kennedy (500 free) and D.J. Mulligan (diving) each won events.

In an 86-81 win over Seymour on Jan. 15, Woodland only won two events — Aldrich in the 200 free and Kennedy in the 500 free — but the Hawks’ depth allowed them to overcome some of the NVL’s fastest swimmers and outpoint the Wildcats.

A large part of that depth comes from a freshman class that boasts nearly a dozen swimmers.

“A lot of it is coming from a good middle school team that’s teaching them good fundamentals, so when they’re coming here, I’m not teaching as much,” Currier said. “It’s more fine-tuning and training than teaching. Our freshmen are doing awesome just from knowing how to swim already, and our juniors and seniors are great leaders.”

The string of dual-meet victories, especially the Jan. 4 win at Torrington, contributes to a sense of high confidence at Woodland.

“They like beating other NVL teams, NVL teams we’ve never beaten before,” Currier said. “Beating Torrington, that’s the first time we’ve ever beaten them. It could happen with other NVL teams, which is exciting.”

The team’s success continues to foster a loose yet competitive atmosphere at Woodland’s practices, which Currier admits is a contrast to many practices he ran in past years.

“It’s a blast right now,” Currier said. “They’re having fun with the training we’re doing and they’re all responding to it.”

There are still about three weeks left in the dual-meet season, which will pit the Hawks against some of the NVL’s top contenders, and more than a month until the league championships. In swimming those meets and preparing for the championship season, Currier said the team’s practice goals will continue to shift.

“Fine-tuning, trying to up the yardage and intensity without slowing them down,” Currier said. “We’re getting them pumped to race, not afraid to race.”

Woodland will host Sacred Heart on Friday and visit Wilby-Kaynor Tech next Friday.