Staples girls swim and dive team makes swift turnaround
Updated 10:47 am, Monday, October 29, 2012
The Staples High girls swimming and diving team reversed its fortunes in a positive way this fall, and will look to carry that success into the championship season.
After posting a 3-7 record a year ago, the Wreckers ended this regular season with seven wins, capping the turnaround with a 96-82 victory over East Lyme last week.
Longtime head coach Mike Laux attributed some of the team's success this year to the quick emergence of newcomers in the lineup. The Wreckers' freshman class is led by swimmers Aileen Coyne, Amelia Bullock, Mira Patel and Anelise Browne, in addition to divers Eliza Donovan and Sophia Stanley.
"They were all point scorers in meets," Laux said. "It's been a good season and we're looking forward to the postseason."
The ability of those swimmers to make a smooth transition to the high school level has the team feeling confident heading into the FCIAC swim finals, which are scheduled for Saturday at Greenwich High School. The diving finals will be held Friday at Westhill High.
"I'm very excited," senior captain Rebecca Raab said. "We have a lot of very amazing swimmers and a lot of great freshmen, and it looks like it's going to be a great FCIAC. We'll see how it goes."
Laux said that the team is hoping to improve on last year's seventh-place finish in the conference meet.
"If we get top five that would be fantastic," he said.
Realistically, Laux is shooting for sixth place, but mentioned that even that will be tough given the field. In addition to two-time defending champion New Canaan, Greenwich, Darien and Wilton, teams like Trumbull and the Norwalk-Brien McMahon co-op present tough competition, Laux said.
Staples avenged last year's regular season loss to Norwalk-McMahon--edging the Bears on Oct. 19 on the final relay--but the postseason is a whole new level, Laux noted, with teams no longer swimming in duel meets.
"I would like to beat one of the teams that beat us last year," Laux said, referring to the 2011 conference meet.
Regardless of how the Wreckers do in the FCIAC meet, the season will continue for many of the team's swimmers who have greatly contributed to the team's success.
Laux said that seniors Raab, Sarah Cooperman, Alexis Teixeira and Anita Vohra, juniors Verity Abel and Gabbie LeBlanc, sophomores Stacy Kaneko and Jordan Santarella, and Bullock, Coyne and Patel are all state tournament qualifiers. He added that Browne and senior Patricia Maragos were both on the cusp of qualifying heading into the FCIAC final, and could work their way into the mix.
He believes that his squad came on particularly strong late in the season once the swimmers got into better shape from weeks of practices and competitions.
"The potential of the team came out at the end of the season," Laux said.
Dan Long, the diving coach at Staples, has been pleased with his group since the start. Long said that in a typical year, two or three students would come out for the diving squad. But this year, the team had eight divers show up on the first day of practice.
"These girls were--for the most part--new to the sport, having never competed in diving previously. A few had some background in gymnastics, but all had to essentially learn a new sport in a matter of weeks. And learn they did," Long said.
Staples fielded three divers for almost every meet. The participants needed to learn at least six dives, representing five different groups, he added.
"They put their fears aside and charged ahead, practicing on average six days a week. This dedication resulted in divers who increased their total scores almost every meet."
Olivia Crosby, a sophomore, and both Stanley and Donovan have all scored well in each meet and have steadily improved, according to Long. Sonia Klein and Kacey Hertan also picked up important points, in part during a four-week stretch when Crosby was sidelined because of an injury.
Andy Hutchison is a freelance writer