By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News
NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck heads into the Naugatuck Valley League swimming and diving championships having finished runner-up to Holy Cross — the six-time defending champion — the last five years.
The two teams faced off in a virtual meet on March 9, with the Crusaders earning a 96-82 win.
“It gave us a good measuring stick as to where we are going into the NVL championship meet,” Naugatuck head coach Dan Knepple said. “Holy Cross still has a lot of talent, but they are not as deep as teams in the past with only 16 swimmers on the roster.”
“Woodland and Oxford have the deepest teams and have a better chance of picking up a lot of places,” Knepple added. “But it will be interesting to see as a lot of teams don’t go as deep in diving like Woodland and us. It will be interesting to see the effect those points have on the final outcome.”
The NVL diving competition is set for March 23 at Watertown High School and will be in person. The NVL swim championship meet will be virtual with teams competing by March 25.
The NVL championship meet will certainly look different this year. There won’t be the rowdy atmosphere on the pool deck that is a staple of the meet.
Virtual meets have taken away excitement this year, which is why Knepple is hoping to invite another team to Naugatuck High to swim against for the NVL meet.
“We are looking to bring in another team to compete with us for the NVL meet,” Knepple said. “The state is opening up some of the restrictions on March 19, so it would create the availability to have another team come in here. But that depends on our district as far as protocols go.”
“In order for that to happen there are still a lot of working parts that would need to come together,” he added. “But it would be worth exploring to bring a little more competitive edge to the championship than a virtual meet would have.”
Naugatuck picked up a few first places in the virtual meet against the Crusaders.
Jacob Hall won the 100 breaststroke in 1 minute, 14.65 seconds and Kevin Healey finished first in the 500 freestyle in 5:53.22. Justin Stone won the diving event with a score of 224.92.
The 400 free relay squad of Gavin McKeon, Steven Herb, Healey and Hall swam to first in 3:56.76.
Naugatuck fell to Oxford, 99-82, on March 5. McKeon picked up a pair of first-place finishes to lead the Hounds. He won the 500 freestyle (5:43.69) and the 100 backstroke (1:05.81).
Hall won the 200 freestyle (1:58.9), and Stone scored a season-high 236.55 points to win the diving competition. The 400 freestyle relay team of Herb, Healey, McKeon and Hall swam to victory in 3:49.91.
The Greyhounds topped Torrington, 93-80, in a virtual meet March 12. Individual event winners for Naugy included McKeon in the 200 freestyle, Hall in the 200 IM (2:18.69) and Herb in the 50 freestyle (24.89).
“I think we are moving in the right direction as far as our times, and I think we will see even more improvement, but we do need to focus on being in the right mindset and having enough rest going into the championship,” Knepple said.
Naugatuck is set to finish the regular season this week with a couple of virtual tri-meets to make up for some postponements earlier on the season. The Greyhounds are scheduled to face Sacred Heart and Seymour on March 16 and Watertown and Kennedy on March 19.
“We are using the last week of the season to continue our training and to better our times leading up to the NVL championship,” Knepple said.