By Kyle Brennan, Citizen’s News
WATERBURY — Any notion that this boys swimming season was a rebuilding year for Woodland sunk into the deep end at the Naugatuck Valley League championships.
The Hawks finished third in the team standings for the second straight year and took home their first swimming gold medals in five years after a successful night at Kennedy High on March 3.
“From getting on the bus and being pumped up to getting back on the bus and leaving for home, it was great,” Woodland coach Tom Currier said. “We did it as a team. They swam great — all (personal) best times at trials or finals. You can’t ask anything else.”
Woodland kicked off the meet with a victory in the 200 medley relay. The group consisting of Pat Zieba, Ryan Curtin, Tyler MacDowall and Noah Scott edged Holy Cross, which won its sixth straight team title, by a half-second, touching in 1:45.30.
That relay squad became the first Woodland swimmers to win an event at NVLs since Aidan Music in 2015. Diver Riley Clark had won three straight gold medals on the board from 2017-19.
“All year, our times have been up there in the medley,” Currier said. “I wouldn’t say it was an expectation, but we definitely hoped. We’ve got four well-rounded swimmers and we had a couple of others who could have filled in. We’ve got four kids who are fast in four strokes and pulled it out. They looked fast. It was a great way to start the meet.”
Woodland’s most outstanding individual swimmer was Scott, who placed second in the 50 freestyle (22.57 seconds) and sixth in the 100 free (52.68).
“That was a hot time,” Currier said of Scott’s effort in the 50 free. “He looked fast and strong.”
Other top-six finishers included Zieba (third, 100 backstroke), Tyler Cyr (fifth, 100 breaststroke), Curtin (sixth, 100 breaststroke), the fourth-place 200 free relay team (Zieba, Curtin, MacDowall and Scott), and the sixth-place 400 free relay team (Zieba, Cyr, Scott and Aiden Kennedy).
The Hawks also earned plenty of points in diving thanks to D.J. Mulligan (fourth, 334.95 points), DeAngelo Allen (sixth, 298.80) and Nathan Bouffard (eighth, 267.80).
Woodland finished with 638 points, shy of champion Holy Cross and runner-up Naugatuck but nearly 100 points clear of fourth-place Oxford.
“I hoped (it could happen),” Currier said of the third-place finish, which tied last year’s team for the best finish in program history. “I try not to think of it too much. You always want to win, but if your kids do best times and have fun doing it, that’s all you can ask. I can’t put my stress of wanting to win on them.”
Woodland will now focus on the Class S state championships. The diving finals are Wednesday, with swim trials Saturday in Cheshire and swim finals March 18 at Wesleyan.
“I think they’ve got more juice in the tank,” Currier said. “They’ll drop even more time.”