NAUGATUCK — On a recent afternoon, Naugatuck boys swim coach Jim McKee took the times from a recent dual meet and compared them to times during a similar point in the Greyhounds’ 2007 Naugatuck Valley League championship season.
McKee’s findings were striking — there wasn’t much difference.
As the ‘Hounds prepare for the stretch run, times are dropping and spirits are rising. Don’t be fooled by the Greyhounds’ fourth-place location in the NVL standings.
After wins over Crosby and Wolcott on Monday night, Naugy stands at 7-3 in the NVL. Everyone on the team is seemingly improving.
“We’re averaging 50 best times a meet,” McKee said. “These kids have gotten pretty good.”
The Greyhounds were set for one more dual meet against Kennedy on Wednesday night before the NVL championships. If Naugatuck continues at its current pace, a chance at a leapfrogging one or more teams in the final conference standings is not an unreasonable expectation.
A strong nonleague schedule that included several state powers such as Glastonbury, Pomperaug, Cheshire and Conard gave the Greyhounds a taste of top-level state competition. The ‘Hounds are 8-7 overall, but their record belies their ability.
Decreases in times are seen all over the team. Swimmers vary by age, event and experience — but they’re all getting better.
For instance, sophomore Marcus Cruz has seen about a 17-second drop in the backstroke and also notched the team’s best time in the IM (2:32.17 ) against Crosby on Monday. Junior Matt Hall has dropped five seconds in the butterfly since the start of the season.
Both senior Josh Deptula and junior George Vygoder have reduced their times in the 200 free by about 10 seconds. Sophomores Jake Morrissey (25-second improvement in IM), Mitch Santos (shaved nine seconds off his time in the backstroke) and Vinny Thoren (18-second drop in backstroke) have all seen marked improvement.
Senior Nick Streifel, now in his second season, trimmed his 100 back time by 14 seconds this year, while junior Mikhail Burdoev dropped 16 seconds off his 200 free and freshman Michael Lauer has reduced his 500 free time by over 50 seconds.
“The atmosphere is as positive as I’ve ever remember it on a team,” McKee said.
McKee attributed the team’s upbeat approach to the constant praise individual swimmers have earned. Despite barely reaching the .500 mark as a team, swimmers are buying into the coaching staff’s system and results are showing.
With the upcoming NVL trials set for Tuesday, followed by the diving finals on Wednesday and the swimming finals on March 2, the team could be peaking at the right time. McKee said he’s proud of the team’s overall performance and collective positive attitude.
“If every season is this rewarding,” McKee said, “I’m going to coach to forever.”