BEACON FALLS — The Woodland girls swim team might not have as many wins as last year’s record-setting squad, but it has plenty of other important traits.
“Not only do we have some of the best swimmers around, we also have some of the best singers and dancers,” Woodland coach Mike Magas joked. “Between practices and bus rides, it’s just been a blast to be around these girls. We have an attitude of working hard and giving it our best, and if giving it our best isn’t good enough, then we have nothing to hang our head about.”
That attitude — and unique looseness — has led to a late-season charge for the Hawks (5-8), who won three of their last four Naugatuck Valley League meets to finish 5-4 in the league.
It’s been a significant turnaround for Woodland, who started the year 1-5 as a number of younger swimmers and divers gained experience after a tremendous graduating class left voids to fill.
“I’m very pleased with how the season has progressed,” Magas said. “We knew we were going to be in a rebuilding mode this year but the girls have responded tremendously. They’ve been working hard. We’ve had a lot of close meets with Naugatuck, Sacred Heart and Torrington.”
Senior captains Chrissy Leeper, Sydney Corneau and Jesse Erickson have led the way for the Hawks, who beat Kennedy 99-81 on Monday’s senior night.
In that meet, Leeper took the 50-yard freestyle (26.71 seconds) and the 100 backstroke (1:10.29) while a number of other swimmers gained event victories.
Whitney Stow won the 200 IM in 2:50.96, Brianna Christiano earned the 100 butterfly in 1:16.46, Chloe Ariola took the 100 free in 1:05.95 and Emma Sardinskas grabbed the 500 free in 6:23.84.
Woodland’s relays also snatched two of three wins. The 200 medley relay team of Emily Trumbley, Sarah Parker, Leeper and Corneau won the meet’s first event in 2:10.22, while the 200 free relay squad of Corneau, Ariola, Sardinskas and Christiano finished first in 1:56.92.
Magas thinks the relay teams will be important in determining how well the Hawks do at this week’s NVL championships, which will see its diving finals Nov. 1 and swim finals Nov. 3.
“We’re going to need two girls to qualify in every individual event and we’re going to need our top relay group to excel,” Magas said. “[Wednesday’s meet at East Haven] may be the telltale sign of who I’m going to put where. Our divers have to do well. We’ll be relying on Kim [Thrasher] and Liz [Martin], our two seniors, to score a lot of points.”
The Hawks placed a school-record third at least year’s league meet and Magas thinks that might be possible to match.
“Right now it’s pretty clear-cut that Watertown is the heavy favorite,” he said. “I think there will be four teams battling for that second-place spot and that includes us.”
Regardless of the finish, though, Magas said he has enjoyed this season like few others.
“They’ve been phenomenal,” Magas said of his team. “It’s more than wins or losses for me, especially on the high school level. I want to see the girls come together and grow as a team. I want them to take life lessons out of this season. They have made this one of the most fun years for me as a coach.”