WATERBURY — Imagine standing in a small, confined structure with more than 500 people squeezed inside. Then think of the loudest sound you’ve ever heard—and multiply it by three—as soon as a commotion arises in the middle of the building. No, you’re not in an airport hangar watching a Boeing 787 try out its new engine—you’re in the Kennedy High School pool checking out the Naugatuck Valley League Indicational meet.
That was the scene Friday in Waterbury, as all nine NVL teams swarmed the Kennedy pool to test new swimmers’ skills and get a look at what the rest of the league has to offer this season. The latter, in fact, is what Naugatuck coach Jim McKee feels is the most useful part of the meet.
“I don’t think it’s a really good indicator,” McKee noted. “You’re trying to see what shape your team’s in and trying to get everyone a chance to win, but I don’t think any of the coaches look too hard at their own times. We’re curious to see what other teams have—if anybody has new, good freshmen or solid returning kids. It’s almost a break for the girls after two weeks of training.”
Woodland coach Michael Magas also sees the advantage of getting a first look at other teams, but he uses the meet more to gauge where his new swimmers can fit in on the team.
“We have 10 freshmen, and we’re trying to find places to fit them in,” Magas said. “We’re trying to pinpoint the areas where we can utilize our new swimmers. … I know the league is going to be very competitive with a lot of parity.”
Though Naugy doesn’t use the Indicational as much as some do, McKee still has a strong idea of how his team is shaping up and what the Hounds need to work on.
“We’re inexperienced and don’t have a lot of year-round swimmers, so we have to have very good training sessions,” he explained. “To be competitive, we’re going to have to do bunches of best times every week. Right now, we’re a notch below the top tier in the league, but we have a very hard-working group.”
The Garnet and Grey look to a group of senior captains—Leah Grabowski, Sam Fredericks, Lauren Zalewski and Sarah Yacavone—for leadership on a young team. Along with that seasoned quartet, the Hounds also feature multi-talented athletes, including seniors Taylor Filanowski, Liz Morgan-Russo, Kaitlyn Dana, Elicia Young, Melissa Uva and Deborah Rodrigues; juniors Nicole Javins, Jocelyn Brantley, Melissa Kirschbaum and Sarah Konops; sophomore Molly Walsh and nine freshmen.
The Hawks, led by senior tri-captains Alyssa Maggiore, Sam Angeloszek and Katie Patrick, have set their sights higher than in the past.
“We have a goal of placing in the top three in the league,” Magas said. “A big part of achieving that goal is our depth. We’re going to need to develop our second- and third-line swimmers, as well as getting our sprinters swimming faster. But we have some positive surprises, especially from some freshmen.”
Last year, that freshman was Katie-Jean Hinckley, who apparently hasn’t lost a beat—she shattered two more school records in Woodland’s 103-82 win over Southington Tuesday. This year, in addition to senior Jill Pagoni, junior Amanda Gagne, and sophomores Emily Soulier, Carolyn Luddy, and Dayna Chucta (sister of two-time league diving champ Heather), four freshmen—Chrissy Leeper, Sydney Corneau, Rachel Gerard and Emily Trumbley—have made a splash on the team in the early going.
“What will get us over the hump,” Magas added, “will be hard work and focus. That’s what it always comes down to.”