- FUN FEATURES
Diving is a sport that requires concentration. Spectators are told to keep silent and not use flash photography beforehand. However, as Cheshire High School senior Jordan Attwood climbed the board for his final dive on Feb. 17, another obstacle caught his eye at the Cheshire Community Pool.
“There was somebody standing behind the board and it was distracting to look at,” explained Attwood. “But, I knew I had to do this. It comes down to making sure I don't drop my head.”
The dive he had never tried at a home dual meet ended up securing his best score yet. Attwood (247.2), classmate Mike Topitzer (225.4), and junior Matt Annenberg (174.3) swept the top three positions against Xavier on Senior Night. Xavier collectively won the meet, 96-85.
“It felt pretty good. That's a dive that I can do, but sometimes have a tendency to not execute,” Attwood said. “It was special to get my highest score tonight.”
Topitzer and Attwood started diving four years ago. Last season saw a breakthrough, as they qualified for their first State Open together. Both hope to dive in college. According to Cheshire Head Coach Fran Connolly, they have cracked the school's top 10 dual-meet scores.
“He has helped me in things that I've had difficulty with and I've done the same for him. It's very important because you can work off each other (Attwood, Annenberg),” explained Topitzer, who hopes to compete for Fordham University. “It's bittersweet. You are happy that the hard work has paid off and you've done well. But, it's tough to say goodbye to these guys.”
“I got accepted to Stony Brook and Case Western. Brown is my number one choice,” added Attwood. “It's great that they have my back before college. Matt (Annenberg) has been a fun guy for two years. Mike and I train together over the summer, too. I've enjoyed working with them.”
With all three divers back from last season, Cheshire has compiled many top finishes under first-year coach Kelly Mohr. The final home meet was unique, in that Xavier junior John Maher (155.4) and freshman Alex Kelly (87.2) are local residents.
“It is interesting to see the kids from Cheshire. You wonder how good we would be if we were all together on the same team,” reflected Topitzer, who added third place in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:20.65).
Familiarity went beyond just diving. Xavier also has four standout swimmers from Cheshire and the head coaches are linked. Connolly left Xavier four years ago, succeeding retired Cheshire boys' coach Ed Aston. Keith Nichols replaced Connolly and has coached the Falcons to 53 victories over that span.
“He left some big shoes to fill. We've been fortunate to reload quickly,” stated Nichols.
Cheshire controlled diving, but Xavier countered with number in the pool. The Falcons won nine events and added five runner-up finishes to remain unbeaten at 14-0. Cheshire fell to 7-8, after dropping their fourth straight meet.
“We knew we couldn't control the score. We try to swim as tough as we can,” said Connolly. “We got our relay times closer to where we want them.”
Local residents continued a strong season for Xavier. Seniors Michael Wilson (50-yard freestyle, 23.47) and Will Thomann (100-yard backstroke, 58.47), along with juniors Kevin Kosciuk (200-yard individual medley, 2:03.74) and Kyle Newton (100-yard freestyle, 52.48), each won events. They also teamed up to win the opening 200-yard medley relay (1:44.89). Junior Alex Wilson is a top breaststroker from Cheshire.
“We have top notch kids that can match up with anybody. Our senior leadership is unparalleled,” Nichols explained. “This is always a big meet for these kids.”
Connolly knew the Rams couldn't match their rival's depth. Cheshire won their first four meets, but have since taken eight losses against stronger competition in 2010. Freshman Greg Han has been a bright spot throughout a transition season and stood tall against the Falcons. Han won the 100-yard breaststroke (1:03.91) and 400-yard freestyle relay (sophomore Brendan Smalec, juniors Dan Mongillo and Peter Broadbridge; 3:36.4), adding runner-up times for the 200-yard individual medley (2:04.76) and 200-yard medley team (sophomores Ray Chen and Justin Go, senior Ethan Medling; 1:46.84).
“Xavier is all around good team, but they are not as deep in breaststroke. You swim until the end and I was happy to win,” said Han. “It feels like (Cheshire YMCA) Sea Dogs. You have to swim against tough competition.”
In his first season, Han is the top point-scorer for the Rams.
“He is instant soup and just add water. Greg rises to the occasion,” explained Connolly. “We are looking for him to become more consistent in practice because he has a lot of potential. Greg provides versatility, but unfortunately, we don't have the depth to be able to move him around as much as we'd like.”
While building toward the future, Cheshire felt it was imperative to recognize their leaders. Attwood, Sweeney, Topitzer, Medling, Miguel Rodriguez Lapman, and Jackson Getchell (500-yard freestyle, fifth, 5:40.08) comprise the first senior class to develop solely under Connolly. Rodriguez Lapman swam for three years.
“I feel honored. The years have gone by so fast,” Medling added.
For Medling, this season has rewarded his hard work. It took him four years to produce a breakout season, during which he became a top sprinter. He produced a strong effort on Senior Night. Medling competed neck-and-neck with Newton in the 100-yard freestyle, before taking second (52.6) by 12 hundredths of a second. He also secured third for the 50-yard freestyle (23.78) and anchored the 200-yard freestyle relay (Broadbridge, Rodriguez Lapman, Mongillo; 1:38.18) to second place.
“That was crazy. I can't believe he (Newton) beat me,” said Medling. “It feels really good (to contribute) because I haven't been very good in the last couple years.”
“We've been looking for Ethan to realize his potential,” recalled Connolly. “Ethan and Miguel are ahead of where they were last year in the sprints. That makes us excited for the end of the season.”
Rodriguez Lapman trains with Medling and secured fourth in the 100-yard freestyle (55.43).
“I love it. We build off each other in practice and meets,” stated Medling.
Their contributions have helped off-set a key injury. Sweeney underwent shoulder surgery in January and hasn't competed since. He is currently rehabbing and hopes to return to action for the Southern Connecticut Conference Championship on March 4.
“That is what I'm shooting for,” said Sweeney, who undergoes therapy and limited swimming workouts. “It's upsetting that I didn't get to swim tonight, but I did get walk out and experience Senior Night. It isn't about one night, but four years. These are a great bunch of guys.”
Sweeney's leadership was also displayed last fall when he captained the football team to their first Class LL title since 1997.
“(Junior) Matt Richardson had shoulder surgery before the season too. We've had some meets where those injuries really hurt us,” reflected Connolly. “This is a small group of guys and we are relatively young. It comes down to how hard we work at practice.”
Connolly feels his team has a bright future. Go finished second (1:19.34) in the 100-yard breaststroke. Smalec (200-yard freestyle, 1:57.95; 500-yard freestyle, 5:14.10) and Mongillo (100-yard butterfly, 59.86) placed third.
“I'd like to see Dan (Mongillo) in the 500 (-yard) freestyle, but we needed him in the butterfly. Matt Richardson would have helped there and Miguel has had a shoulder problem that limits him too,” explained Connolly. “We don't have the depth to give our guys elbow room. It isn't easy to be on a team piling up dual-meet losses. These kids aren't giving up.”
“I want to take out these relays and get these guys to the (State) Open,” added Broadbridge. “We didn't qualify last year. That is one of our goals.”
Cheshire and Xavier both end their dual-meet seasons today. The Rams visit Branford, at 4 p.m.
“They have a really good diver. I want to be up to that challenge,” said Attwood.
Xavier faces high stakes at Wesleyan University, hosting powerhouse Fairfield Prep (13-1 record). Not only will the meet decide the SCC Championship, but the Falcons are also seeking history. Xavier has never had an unbeaten season. They finished 14-1 four years ago, with the only defeat coming against the Jesuits. The pivotal meet begins, at 7:30 p.m.
“Every year, they have beaten us. We came back stronger and they are a little weaker after graduating some great swimmers,” added Michael Wilson. “My coach told us that this is probably the strongest season Xavier has had to date. We have been training hard.”