Rewriting the record books

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By Kyle Brennan, Citizen’s News

Woodland’s Jake Arisian swims the 100 butterfly during a virtual meet against Wilby on March 9 at Woodland Regional High School. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — The record board hanging above the Woodland pool has basically become a shrine to Jake Arisian.

The junior just completed one of the most impressive individual seasons in school history, attaching his name to 10 of the 11 boys swimming records on the board. Not bad for a year in which the COVID-19 pandemic stole a chunk of his training time.

“When my club team was shut down, it cut my training time in half,” Arisian said. “I had to train at my local YMCA, where I [swam] just one hour a day. I was fortunate enough to have a great coach on my club team who would send me workouts to do every day. This kept me in shape and allowed me to be ready for competition on Day 1 of the high school season.”

After skipping the second half of the 2020 high school swim season to focus on club swimming, Arisian returned to Woodland’s pool this winter with added confidence in new coach Brendan Heller and his teammates.

“I came into this year with a lot of confidence in what me and my team could accomplish,” Arisian said. “I knew we had a team full of hard workers who could make us a real competitor in the NVL. That and the fact that we had a new coach who I knew had a lot of experience and who was committed to making me, and everybody else on the team, the best swimmers we could be.”

The records fell early and often. He broke two school records in each of his first two meets of the season. In March alone, he broke or lowered his own record in seven individual events and the three relays.

He holds records in the 50-yard freestyle (21.64 seconds), the 200 free (1:46.42), the 500 free (4:57.99), the 100 backstroke (51.29), the 100 breaststroke (59.39), the 100 butterfly (49.80) and the 200 individual medley (1:58.61). Along with Pat Zieba, Noah Scott and Aiden Kennedy, he also set marks in the 200 free relay (1:31.36) and the 400 free relay (3:25.48), and he set the 200 medley relay record (1:39.62) with Zieba, Arisian and Tyler Cyr.

Woodland junior Jake Arisian, left, and Woodland boys swimming coach Brendan Heller are pictured after Arisian received the John Reardon Award as most outstanding swimmer of the NVL championships during the team’s banquet. -CONTRIBUTED

None of the individual marks was his favorite, though.

“The 400 free relay was my favorite by far,” Arisian said. “It was definitely the record that I was the least sure of, because we only had one shot at it and everybody would have to turn up a best time. We ended up beating it on the last meet of the regular season (March 19 against Oxford), which really made it special to me.”

Arisian’s most outstanding night came March 24 when Woodland swam against Holy Cross in the school’s Naugatuck Valley League championship races. His 49.80-second finish in the 100 fly broke a 27-year-old NVL record and put him in All-American consideration, while his 51.29-second time in the 100 back was also good for an NVL championship record. He earned the John Reardon Award as the most outstanding swimmer of the championships.

“I heard him talking a few nights earlier that he wanted to go 49 (seconds in the 100 fly), and I thought it was ambitious,” Heller said, “but he did it.”

“I chose to set my goal time for a 49 because I had been having such a good season already, (and) I knew I was going to have big drops for NVLs,” Arisian said. “I wanted to set a goal that was attainable, but still very difficult. All of the accolades that came with it were just a bonus. The main sense of accomplishment came from being able to reach the goals that I set for myself.”

He’s already setting lofty goals for his final year before he makes a decision on where he’ll swim in college.

“As of right now it doesn’t seem like there’s going to be a big championship meet until next year, so this (club) season will really just be all about the times I’ll go rather than where I’ll place in a particular meet,” Arisian said. “I’m aiming for a 47.99 in the 100 fly and a 49.99 in the 100 back before the beginning of next high school season.”

Translation: That record board won’t stay the same for long.