Naugatuck making virtual waves

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By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News

Naugatuck’s Davinity Smallwood does the freestyle during a virtual meet against Watertown Oct. 2 at Naugatuck High School. -CONTRIBUTED BY NAUGATUCK SCHOOLS

NAUGATUCK — Even though the competition is miles away, the Naugatuck girls swim team hasn’t had a problem getting motivated for meets.

The Greyhounds have made some virtual waves early on and started the season 2-1.

The CIAC suggested virtual meets as an option for swim teams to increase safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. During virtual meets, teams compete at their own pools and times are compared afterward to determine a winner.

The decision on whether to hold virtual meets was left to individual schools. Naugatuck chose to swim virtually this season.

“Coach (Jim) McKee wanted to do the Naugatuck meets this way and I honored his request,” Naugatuck athletic director Brian Mariano said. “It really comes down to the safety of the kids.”

“Coach McKee has a real specialty in simulating a meet type of atmosphere in practices, and at the end of the day it really comes down to bettering your times,” Mariano added.

After splitting meets with Watertown and Seymour over the first two weeks of the season, the Greyhounds earned a 96-84 win Oct. 13 against Oxford. Naugatuck consistently had swimmers finish in the top two of events.

Davinity Smallwood took first in the 500 freestyle (6:27.81) and second in the 200 freestyle (2:27.75). Ayana Williams won the 50 freestyle (28:18) and placed second in the 100 freestyle (1:02.76). Haley Deller won the 100 backstroke (1:05.76) and finished second in the 200 IM (2:39.14).

Katelyn Fortney (50 free, 29.88), Jacqueline Uva (100 butterfly, 1:07.30), Alena Rotatori (100 backstroke, 1:14.39) and Kayla Bartlett (100 breaststroke, 1:28.02) all placed second.

“Jacqueline and Haley are already swimming best times, and Davinity swims in the offseason,” McKee said. “We have a solid group of girls who are really putting up some great times and they are only going to get better.”

Naugatuck’s Kayla Bartlett does the breaststroke during a virtual meet against Watertown Oct. 2 at Naugatuck High School. -CONTRIBUTED BY NAUGATUCK SCHOOLS

“With these virtual meets if you don’t take is seriously then you will not be successful,” McKee added. “But I’m really pleased at how everyone is swimming. I like the idea that I can swim extra girls to give them experience and that helps a lot.”

McKee said whether a meet is virtual or in-person, the focus is racing against the clock. The team’s seniors — Fortney, Abby Shugdinis and Belle Jason — are leading the way, he said.

“Just because you don’t have a competitor in the lane next to you it shouldn’t matter,” McKee said. “I’m focusing on times, that’s what matters. We have some kids who are very close to breaking into the all-time best list in multiple events.”

With the help of assistant coach Dave Kunces, McKee said the virtual meets have run smoothly.

“We can have the results from the virtual meet within an hour following the meet,” he said.

Naugatuck is to face Woodland on Oct. 16 and Watertown on Oct. 20.

“The goal is at the end of the season the girls can look back and feel it was worth all the time and commitment that went into it,” McKee said.