Greenwich High Swim/Dive Team Wins Emotional FCIAC Title
By Paul Silverfarb
This was a Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference championship that the Greenwich High School boys’ swimming and diving team was determined to take home the gold.
After a tough regular season in which Big Red lost two games against rivals, at times didn’t look like their dominant selves and dealt with a highly-emotional week leading up to the conference finals, the Cardinals came back strong Thursday night, exacting revenge on New Canaan and coming away with the FCIAC title.
“We had to show everybody that we had the metal to do it,” Greenwich High School head coach Terry Lowe said. “It was very important to our kids to show that we can beat a team that has beaten us. Both New Canaan and us swam really well at trials and we both pulled out all the stops. We suited up and everything and really made a royal battle of it.”
Big Red captured the FCIAC championship with 430 points. New Canaan was second overall with 367 and Staples High School picked up the bronze with 297 points. Not to be outdone was Ridgefield, as they took home 291 points and Darien rounded out the top five with 271 points.
While upending a team that beat Greenwich in the regular season was important, nothing was more important than what was on the hearts (literally) and minds of the Cardinals, as they dedicated their performance to recent GHS graduate Julian Fraser and his family.
“It was very emotion for us tonight in many ways,” Lowe said. “Obviously the kids dedicated this to Julian’s family, among other things. We knew this was the toughest county championship in my memory and we came in as an underdog, or at best no better than a very good New Canaan team. For us to do what we did was just wonderful.”
After an 11-month battle with a rare form of cancer, Julian Fraser, a captain of both the GHS swimming and diving team and water polo teams, as well as an All-American swimmer and water polo athlete that graduated two years ago, passed away in late February.
This was a very emotional victory,” Greenwich High senior Patrick Clisham said. “We all had ‘JF’ painted on our hearts for Julian Fraser. We had an extra push to get this championship. We wanted it.”
Despite the heavy hearts with the Cardinals, Big Red was determined to make it a championship that they won’t soon forget.
Having a meet to remember was Clisham. Competing in the 100-yard butterfly, the senior was in a battle with Westhill/Stamford freshman Ben Feldman and Ridgefield senior Liam Riebling. In a back-and-forth battle, it was Clisham who touched the wall first, posting a time of 51.74 seconds. Feldman ended the day second with a time of 51.88 and Riebling took the bronze with a time of 51.91.
“We were working on smoothing out that stroke a little bit,” Lowe said. “For him to win that 100-fly was a big statement for where he is right now.”
Clisham was in action a few minutes prior to his gold medal performance. In the fastest event of the day, the 50-yard freestyle, Clisham took the silver, netting a time of 21.78.
“It was very important victory for us and it is a great start to the championship season, Clisham said. “We were very nervous coming into this meet, but everybody swam great. I felt great today. I had a personal best in the 100-fly and a Greenwich High best in the 50-free. It was my best meet of the year, so I’m very happy with how I swam. We’re going to keep on training and follow Coach Lowe. He knows how to do it.”
Fellow senior Conrad Moss also was strong throughout the FCIAC championship. Joining Clisham in the 50-yard freestyle, Moss was mere inches away from his teammate, posting a third-place time of 22.07. In the 100-yard freestyle, Moss took home a time of 49.47, which was good enough for ninth place overall.
“You have to hand it to Conrad,” Lowe said. “His ability to come from behind and take over a relay is fun to watch. We really needed Conrad in that relay to come through and he did just that.”
Aedan Lewis was strong in two events during his final FCIAC championship meet. The GHS senior brought home the bronze in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 1:57.48. Lewis also took home a podium spot in the 100-yard breaststroke, as he touched the wall with a time of 59.83 and that was good enough for fifth place overall.
Also picking up huge points for Greenwich High School and helping with the FCIAC gold were all three of its relays.
None were better than the 200-yard freestyle relay. The foursome of Lewis, Moss, Clisham and junior Brian O’Leary were in a hotly contested battle with New Canaan for the top spot. At the end, it was Big Red that touched the wall first, posting a time of 1:27.07. The Rams were second with a time of 1:27.25.
Once again it was Big Red in a battle with New Canaan during the 200-yard medley relay. The team of Lewis, Clisham, Moss and junior Matthew Li ended the meet second overall with a time of 1:36.78. New Canaan was third with a time of 1:36.97, while it was Ridgefield that took gold with a time of 1:34.78.
“Winning those two relays was key for us,” Lowe said. “They knew that they had to take second in the medley relay. There was nothing we could do about Ridgefield. Those guys were wonderful. But we had to turn around points in the relays. In the 200-free we came from behind to win the event. I think that was the clincher.”
Keeping the good times rolling was the team of Li, Lynch, junior Patrick King and freshman Andres Ruh, as they had a top five finish in the 400-yard freestyle relay, taking home fourth overall with a time of 3:17.59.
Even before the FCIAC swimming finals started, Greenwich got some key points from the GHS diving squad.
Leading the way was Justin Sodokoff, who won the FCIAC diving title with 526.95 points. The next closest was Tim Luz of Darien, who took second with 501.35 points. Not far behind was Greenwich’s Devon Satir, who netted the bronze with 482.55 points.
Also gaining key points for the Cardinals were Sergei Shaw and Mike McNulty. Shaw’s point total of 407.0 was good enough for eighth overall, while McNulty took 13th with 318.20 points.
“We were really counting on our divers,” Lowe said. “Justin was obviously favored to win. We were sure where Devon was going to go, but he has worked really hard in the past three weeks to polish up those dives. To have him finish third, with an excellent All-American score, was really very pleasing for us.”
Competing in the first individual event of the FCIAC championship meet, the 200-yard freestyle, Greenwich’s King grabbed sixth place overall, posting a time of 1:48.71. He fared two spots better in the 100-yard freestyle, netting a fourth-place time of 49.06.
“This feels really nice because of how hard we worked this season,” King said. “We had some tough times, but we really pulled through. I dropped time and I felt good. And I didn’t even taper, so I am looking forward to the next weeks that we have. Tonight turned out really well for us.”
Not to be outdone was teammate Stephan Todorovic, as he finished two individual events in the top 10. Competing in the 100-yard butterfly, Todorovic ended the day fifth overall with a time of 53.88 and just edged out Darien’s Connor Martin, who touched the wall with a time of 53.94.
Todorovic was back in the pool for the 200-yard individual medley, posting a time of 2:00.49 that was good enough for seventh place on the day.
Breaking through in the 100-yard backstroke was Greenwich High freshman Thomas Lewis. Competing in his first FCIAC finals, he took home fourth place overall with a time of 55.21. Thomas Lewis also battled tough in the 200-yard individual medley, beating out Norwalk/McMahon’s Matteo Roldan for 13th place with a time of 2:02.56.
The number eight matched several Greenwich High School swimmers during the FCIAC championship meet.
Junior Kirk Schultz took home eighth place in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:49.59. Junior Brian O’Leary also finished eighth in the 50-yard freestyle, netting a time of 22.92. Fellow junior Jack Bound took eighth place with a time of 55.10 in the 100-yard butterfly, while freshman Charles Clark had the same place in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4:57.63.
Rounding out the eighth-place finishers for Big Red was Lynch, who touched the wall in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:02.19.
In addition to his relay appearance, Ruh grabbed a top 10 time of the 100-yard butterfly. His time was good enough for ninth overall with a time of 54.85. He also competed in the 200-yard freestyle and netted a time of 148.67 that was good enough for 11th place.
Big Red will be back in action on March 9, when the GHS diving team travels to Hamden High School for competition in the CIAC class LL finals. The swim team will take to the water on March 14, competing at the CIAC class LL swimming finals at Wesleyan University.
“We are going to be in the same spot at the class LL meet,” Lowe said. “We are going against a team that beat us in the regular season. They kind of rubbed it in our face on top of that. We knew that Prep, and a couple of others in that division, are going to give us a battle, but certainly we want to turn the tide against a Prep team that beat us in our home pool. We want to show that we can beat them, as well as New Canaan.”