Naugatuck boys swim winds up in middle of Class L pack

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BY KEN MORSE
CITIZEN’S NEWS
The Naugatuck boys swim team concluded the season with a 12th place finish at the Class L meet on March 15, scoring a total of 172 points. It may not have met expectations but after having the state meet canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic the past two seasons, just competing again at the state level was a win for all those involved.
It has been a numbers game the past few years for the Greyhounds, and this year it really hit home. Armed with just three seniors – captains Steven Herb, Gavin McKeon and Maxwell Napoli – Naugy finished fourth at the NVL championship meet.
“I think everyone on the team did the best that they could and we saw improvement in times throughout the season,” said Naugy swim coach Dan Knepple. “I think a lot of the guys surprised themselves with their times. Especially Steven Herb, he had breakout swims all throughout the championships.”
The 400 freestyle relay team broke into the top 10, finishing 10th with the foursome of Herb, McKeon, junior Jack Healy and freshman Kellen Maher putting up a time of 3:28.23.
The 200 freestyle relay squad of sophomore Eric Fortney, Herb, Healy and Maher finished 11th in 1:33.60 just five-tenths of a second out of the top 10.
The Greyhounds got a strong performance out of Herb in the individual events during the final swim meet of his career. Herb took 11th place in the 50 free in 23.08, just 19 hundreds of a second out of the top 10. Herb placed 13th in the 100 butterfly at 56.62.
Healy had to win a swim-off against Sahil Banerjee of Cheshire to compete in the finals of the 100 butterfly and posted a 19th place finish at 58.16. Maher, who finished third at the NVL meet in the 50 free, found out what the competition was like at the state level, posting a similar time of 23.27 only to end up in 18th place.
“There is a lot of young talent on the team,” said Herb. “That’s exciting for the future of the Greyhounds. But it all comes down to how much depth you have as a team to compete in these end of the year meets.
“You saw that play out at the NVL championships. Woodland won only two events but took the championship because every event they had someone finishing in the top five. They had depth as did Oxford and Holy Cross. You saw just how much a difference that depth can make.”
Other top 20 finishers for the Greyhounds were a pair of junior divers, Blake Stone (14th, 284 points) and Jayson Main (16th, 255.35). The 200 medley relay team of junior Hudson Bombery, McKeon, Fortney and junior Pedro Crivella swam to a 15th place finish in 1:53.74. McKeon was 19th in the 500 free, Maher 20th in the 100 free and Bombery was just outside of the top 20, placing 21st in the 500 free.
“Without having a state meet the last two years I think we might have lost a little perspective on the competition level,” said Knepple. “A lot of teams in the NVL are Class S. When you go to states facing Class L teams, it’s a big difference.
“We usually have around 40 swimmers coming out but this past year we only had 20. I will be looking to increase those numbers going into next season so we can be more competitive for the postseason swims at the end of the year.”
Naugy has seven juniors on the roster that will lead the team next season as they head into their senior year. Fortney will be a junior as will Anthony and Nick Montini and there will be higher expectations from freshmen Ethan McKeon, Brendan Connolly, Jack and John DeBisschop, along with Joshua Lamson and Evan Vaagen.