Hawks place sixth at NVLs

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Woodland junior Andy O’Dell earned a pair of top-five finishes at the Naugatuck Valley League championships March 1 and secured All-NVL honors. –FILE PHOTO
Woodland junior Andy O’Dell earned a pair of top-five finishes at the Naugatuck Valley League championships March 1 and secured All-NVL honors. –FILE PHOTO

WATERBURY — With one of the smallest rosters in the entire Naugatuck Valley League, the Woodland boys swim team placed sixth at last week’s league championships.

The Hawks’ 189.5 points helped them finish above Seymour, Kennedy, Wilby and Crosby. Sacred Heart (497.5 points) won the title for the third year in a row while Holy Cross, Torrington, Naugatuck and Watertown rounded out the top five.

Andy O’Dell, Steve McCusker and Aidan Music were the stars of the competition for Woodland, which competed with less than a dozen swimmers on the roster. Swim finals were held last Friday at Kennedy while diving finals were last Wednesday.

“It’s small but we’re so much closer,” McCusker said of the team’s roster. “It’s like a small, tight-knit family.”

O’Dell earned a pair of top-five finishes to pace Woodland’s effort. He placed second in the 100-yard freestyle in 50.73 seconds, less than a second behind Holy Cross’ Nick Warner. The second-place performance secured All-NVL honors for the junior.

He also finished tied for fifth in the 50 freestyle. O’Dell’s time of 23.57 seconds tied him with Sacred Heart’s Michael Saunders. They finished behind Sacred Heart’s Ray Snyder IV, who won the event in a blistering 22.29 seconds.

Music, only a sophomore, earned a pair of sixth-place finishes Friday. He touched sixth in the 200 IM, behind another star Hearts swimmer in Connor Newton, whose 1:57.92 performance blew away his nearest competitor by almost seven seconds.

Music was also sixth in the 100 freestyle, finishing in 53.35 seconds.

McCusker started the championships on a high note for Woodland when he placed second in the diving competition. His 332.20 points over 11 dives were just enough to hold off Naugatuck’s Ryan Lewis, who earned 330 points.

Sacred Heart’s Peter Gallino took the title with 396.50 points. McCusker’s second-place finish earned him All-NVL honors in his final league meet. It was also the best-ever performance for a Woodland boys diver at the league championships — a fact McCusker didn’t know until he was asked about it.

“That feels good,” he said. “That made me happy. I worked my entire diving career for that.”

Two of the Hawks’ three relay teams also earned top-five marks. The 200 medley relay team started Friday’s finals with a fifth-place finish, touching in 1:47.37 to hold off Watertown in sixth. Sacred Heart won the event in 1:41.34.

Woodland also edged the Indians in the 200 freestyle relay. The Hawks finished with a time of 1:37.92, just better than Watertown’s 1:38.33. Torrington took the event in 1:33.54.

O’Dell, Music, Alan Katrenya, John Dyckman and Jimmy Jensen were all part of the relay teams who qualified in sixth place at last Tuesday’s swim trials and improved their finishes at the finals.

Lauren Tompkins, Jordan Baer, Patrick Dietz, Donovan White and Patrick Conway also competed in events at Tuesday’s trials.

Woodland quickly turned its attention to state competition. McCusker was scheduled to compete in the diving event Thursday at East Lyme while swim trials will be Saturday at Plainville. Swim finals are set for March 13 at Wesleyan.

“I want to break the boys (11-dive) record,” McCusker said of his goal for the state competition. “I was 10 points short (at NVLs). I shanked one dive.”