WATERBURY — The Woodland boys swim team entered the Naugatuck Valley League championship last week armed with a smaller and younger roster compared the rest of the league.
The Hawks posted a score of 355 at NVLs to come away with seventh place. Holy Cross won the championship with 803.5 points.
At first the team was a little tight, Woodland head coach Tom Currier said. The Hawks were taking it too serious rather than enjoying the moment. But after a quick pep talk for their coach, Currier said “they pulled it together and just started having fun and racing better. They stopped over thinking and just swam.”
Freshman Riley Clark got things started for the Hawks at the diving championship March 2 at Kennedy High School. Clark returned from a late-season injury to take fifth place with a score of 341.15, one point off the Woodland boys record for diving.
Currier said Clark showed great mental determination to return to the diving board following his injury.
“As a freshman to handle that situation, he did very well,” Currier said. “I’m very proud of him.”
Senior James Jensen led the way two days later at the swim final at Kennedy. He posted the Hawks’ best individual finishes with a pair of fourth places in the 50 freestyle (23.49) and the 100 freestyle (51.31).
Jensen was also part of the 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay teams that took sixth and seventh, respectively. He was joined by Jake Stow, Donovan White and Jordan Bear in the medley relay, and White, Jeffrey Varesio and Colin Kennelly in the freestyle relay.
“He’s had a great year,” Currier said of Jensen. “He’s worked hard for it, definitely trained, and it’s showing. Physically and mentally he worked hard this year.”
White placed ninth in the 100 breaststroke (1:08.31) and the 400 freestyle relay team of Julie Hinckley, Greg Aldrich, Varesio and Kennelly took seventh (3:51.37) to round out the top-ten finishes for the Hawks.
The Hawks will now set their sights on the Class S championships. Clark qualified for the diving competition, which is Wednesday at Plainville High School.
The Class S swim finals are March 15 at Wesleyan University.
Jensen (50 and 100 freestyle), Baer (100 butterfly and 100 breaststroke) and White (100 breaststroke) have all qualified for individual events. The three senior captains will lead the way for the Hawks at states.
Hinckley (200 and 500 freestyle), Kennelly (50 and 100 freestyle), Stow (200 IM and 100 backstroke), Chase Chura (200 freestyle 100 backstroke), Zack Arisian (200 and 500 freestyle) and Aldrich (200 IM and 100 breaststroke) are also set to compete in individual events at states.
The Hawks will also be represented at the Class S meet by the same three really teams that swam at NVLs.
Currier is confident that his Hawks will shave their times at states. But most important, he said, is for them to revel in the moment.
“As long as they keep having fun and keep getting better that’s all the expectations I can have,” he said.