Woodland swims to NVL crown

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BY KYLE BRENNAN
CITIZEN’S NEWS
WATERBURY — Throw away the pandemic, and Woodland High girls swim coach Mike Magas thinks his soon-to-be graduating class of five seniors would have three Naugatuck Valley League titles to their credit.
It’s hard to argue after the Hawks cruised to another league championship, crushing the field Nov. 6 to win by 200 points over second-place Naugatuck.
“COVID won one year, but we had a strong feeling that we could have won the title last year,” Magas said. “They would have been three-year NVL champs without that. This is our winningest group of girls since I’ve been here.”
Seniors Kyla Behrle, Shaelin DiGioia, Brooke Reilly, Kayleigh Theroux and Adrianna Heeman enjoyed championship success as sophomores in 2019, too. That one was close — a mere two-point win over Seymour. This one was never in doubt.
Sophomore Emme Starzman was the star, winning the 200-yard individual medley (2:15.42) and the 100 breaststroke (1:10.09) and swimming the opening leg of the victorious 200 freestyle relay team (with Behrle, Laura DeGennaro, and Molly Kennedy) that set a school record in 1:43.24.
“I wasn’t really worried about my times. I was more, like, I need to beat this girl; I’m going to beat her,” Starzman told the Republican-American. “It was all positive thinking. I didn’t think once that I was doubting myself.”
DeGennaro also took silver in the 200 free, while Kennedy was third in the 50 and 100 free. Behrle earned silver in the 100 butterfly and the 500 free, Maura Beltrami placed third in the 200 IM and the 500 free, and Sam Sharkey nabbed bronze in the 100 breast.
“It’s my senior year, and it felt good to have an undefeated season for the first time ever as a senior,” Behrle told the Rep-Am. “It also felt good to show the underclassmen how a championship is won.”
Woodland also racked up second-place finishes in the 200 medley and 400 free relays. Add in the 1-2-5 finish in diving by Ella Bernegger, DiGioia, and Theroux, and it was a dominant effort by the Hawks from first to final event.
“It was so strong across the board. It was a team effort,” Magas said. “We had four girls in the top eight, 10, 12 in some events. It was definitely a team effort.”
Magas said the Hawks didn’t approach the meet differently although they were a heavy title favorite.
“We take the same approach that we do every year,” Magas said. “We’ve set a different standard over the past 10 years or so. I told the girls that we’ve raised the bar and that we expect nothing but their best. Even though we had a big lead going into finals and high expectations, we didn’t take anything for granted. The girls definitely pushed, and it showed in their times.”
Naugatuck’s second-place total of 786 points was comfortably ahead of Seymour’s 609-point performance in third. Haley Deller was the Greyhounds’ lone winner, claiming a victory in the 100 backstroke (1:05.39). Jacqueline Uva finished third in the 100 fly, while the ‘Hounds placed second in the 200 free relay with Uva, Ayana Williams, Leticia DoNascimento, and Lily Jason. Naugy was third in the other two relay events.