CHESHIRE — It was no championship, but Naugatuck’s 102-84 win over powerhouse Cheshire Friday was undeniably a big deal, even for a coach who has enjoyed the longevity and success the Greyhounds’ Jim McKee has.
“This is only the fourth time in my 34 years of coaching that Naugatuck has defeated Cheshire in a dual meet,” he said. “It’s two years in a row, but there have been many, many losses along the way.”
Since McKee became Naugy’s pool boss, the Rams have won 17 state championships, often in the same class as the Hounds, who captured a Class L title in 1992.
But Friday, it was NHS that looked like a powerhouse. Borough swimmers won eight of 11 events, more than compensating for Cheshire’s 1-2-3 finish in diving.
Though it was Naugatuck’s stretch run that sealed the victory, a pair of goggle-tight finishes was the key to keeping the Garnet and Grey in the meet early. In the opening event, Naugy’s 200-yard medley relay team of William Wright, Dalton Fennell, T.J. Warren and James Vaz out-touched the Rams’ squad by just .18 of a second, in one minute, 47.34 seconds. Then, in the 50 freestyle, Fennell beat Cheshire’s Ethan Medline by only .04, in 23.39.
Still, the Rams led, 42-36, after diving, the fifth event; if not for those two wins by a combined .22 of a second, Cheshire’s lead would have tripled, to 18 points.
Other Naugatuck winners included Trevor Heller in the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly, Kyle Conrad in the 100 free, Chris Branco in the 500 free, and the 200 and 400 free relay teams.
The Rams were led by two underclassmen, freshman Greg Han and sophomore Ray Lai Chen. They finished first and second, in that order, in the 200 individual medley; Chen won the 100 backstroke, and Han claimed the 100 breaststroke.
Admittedly, this edition of the Cheshire boys’ swimming and diving team is not its strongest. The Rams are 7-6 overall, with losses to elite schools, like Brookfield, Sacred Heart, Fairfield Prep, Pomperaug and Notre Dame-West Haven.
Naugatuck is 5-1, its lone loss to Glastonbury in the season opener Dec. 18. The Greyhounds face another mighty foe Tuesday, when they visit Pomperaug.