NAUGATUCK — If it were any other season, last Tuesday’s meet against Watertown would have just marked the opener against a Naugatuck Valley League opponent.
This isn’t any other season.
The meet — a 91-77 victory over the Indians — marked the first time in over four decades that the Naugatuck boys swim team had a new head coach patrolling the pool deck.
“I wasn’t too sure what to expect in the first meet,” said head coach Dan Knepple, who took over this season for longtime coach Jim McKee, who retired from coaching the boys after last season. “I was just hoping to put out a competitive lineup and have a good meet. It certainly feels good to get that first win behind me.
“Coach McKee put up such a legacy, to follow him creates a few butterflies. But the guys responded and had some great swims. I’m excited for the season and what we can accomplish.”
Junior Spencer Maher set the tone early on by winning two of the first six events against Watertown. Maher took first in the 200 IM (2:12) and the 100 butterfly (59.30).
The real hoopla of the season didn’t begin in earnest until senior captain Austin Herb turned in an inspiring performance in the 500 freestyle.
Herb remained about half a body length behind Watertown’s Robert Guerrera through the first 16 laps. Coming out of the final turn, Herb kicked it in gear and pulled ahead as the Greyhounds lined the deck to cheer on their senior captain.
Herb pulled out a first-place finish in 5:47.07, with Guerrera posting a 5:47.50.
“I never really give up,” Herb said. “I saw him just ahead of me and just tried to stay with him until the final 100. I was able to beat him out down the stretch, and it’s such a great feeling when you look up at your time and see that you came out with the win.”
Naugy jumped out on top and never looked back. The 200 medley foursome of Bailey Ceryak, Joe Rafala, Maher and Alex Manasoiu swam to victory in 1:52.72 to take the early lead. Dale Wakeley followed with a first-place finish in the 200 freestyle in 2:02.39. Maher won the 200 IM, and Manasoiu took first in the 50 freestyle with a blistering pace of 25.05.
William Brown scored 167.80 and Tsering Dhondup put up a 145.80 as the Greyhounds took first and second in diving.
Maher followed the diving event with his second first-place finish, winning the 100 butterfly.
The Greyhounds showed their quality depth with Jacob Hall finishing second (1:01.16) and Joseph Amato taking third (1:01.22) in the 100 free.
After the 200 freestyle relay team of Gavin McKeon, Manasoiu, Rafala and Wakeley finished first in 1:46.58, Naugy swam exhibition the rest of the way.
The Greyhounds hosted Glastonbury on Dec. 20. Results from the meet weren’t reported.
After a holiday break and the annual Alumni meet, Naugatuck will be back in action Jan. 8 against Kennedy.