Hawks outnumbered, not ‘out-gunned’

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Woodland Regional High School senior Stephen McCusker practices a dive during practice Nov. 29. Woodland has a small squad this season with 11 swimmers, but the Hawks expect to make their presence felt in the Naugatuck Valley League. –LUKE MARSHALL

BEACON FALLS — The Woodland boys swim team may very well have the smallest roster in school history but that won’t deter the Hawks from expecting to compete with any team on their schedule.

Coach Tom Currier has seen this scenario unfold before and the Hawks always rise to the occasion.

“We may be out numbered but we certainly are not out-gunned,” Currier said. “We don’t have a lot of depth with only 11 members on the team but what we do have is some very good athletes who are ready to compete.”

The last two years Woodland has finished in the middle of the Naugatuck Valley League pack, sixth of 11 teams at the league championship meet. They raised the bar in Class S state competition, finishing sixth in 2010 and seventh last year with just more than a dozen swimmers.

Last year certainly didn’t start out as a promising season as the Hawks stumbled to an 0-4 start. But Woodland finished strong, winning seven of its last 11 meets to finish 7-8 overall and 4-5 in the NVL.

The Hawks will need to replace last year’s all-state swimmer Patrick O’Dell along with team leaders Eric Dietz, Andrew Cullen, and Jimmy Tompkins along with diver Mike Christiano, who finished sixth in Class S.

Currier said the preseason is especially important to his team because the Hawks don’t have many full-time swimmers.

“A lot of the kids do preseason work but they don’t swim competitively in the offseason,” he said. “We just had the (NVL) Indicational meet but scores are not kept. I was encouraged by the times put up by our younger swimmers. The older swimmers had some pretty good times as well this early in the season.”

Woodland will be led by senior captain Patrick Dietz along with senior diver Steve McCusker. The Hawks also return half of the 4-by-200-meter relay team that finished second at last year’s NVL meet with juniors Andy O’Dell and Alan Katrenya.

O’Dell will also be looked on as a team leader after two solid eighth-place finishes in the 100 and 200 freestyles at the Class S state championship meet last year.

Junior Lauren Tompkins will also provide some depth in the freestyles in both the 100 and 200 events.

“The goal right now is to get as many swimmers qualified for the NVL meet and the states,” Currier said. “If they do well in the individual events we will do well as a team. At this point we are not concerned with our overall record than we are with improving our times every time we get in the pool.”

Currier is looking forward to the steady improvement of sophomores Aidan Music, Pat Conway, and John Dyckman. The Hawks will also need solid contributions from freshmen Jordan Baer, Donovan White, and Jimmy Jensen.

While their numbers are not comparable to other teams in the NVL, expect the Hawks to be up for the challenge and be a competitive force at the NVL championships.

Woodland opened the season with a 77-71 loss against NVL favorite Sacred Heart Wednesday night. The Hawks will host Northwestern on Tuesday and Pomperaug next Thursday in the first home meets of the season.