Warriors win conference title on senior night in West Hartford.
By Paul Palmer
Depth is a swim coach’s best friend and Hall girls swim coach John McClure had his team’s depth on full display in their regular season finale win against Conard.
The Warriors won the first four events on senior night, but more importantly they also finished second in three of those events, and third in two others to build a 40-22 lead.
“If all you get is first place, you will lose,” said the Hall coach, now in his 37th season with the team. “You have to win first and second, or first and third or fourth.
Junior Jacqui Fox led the opening relay winners for Hall, and then came back to win the 50 free. Her relay teammates Mindy Zhao, Aly Booth, and Kali Dominguez scored points in the next three events as well. Junior Meghan Tiernan won the first of her two individual events of the meet in the 200 IM. Tiernan would later take the 500 freestyle.
McClure said the mix of new and returning swimmers has made all the difference this season for his team. “We had a lot of great kids return, and three of our freshmen (Zhao, Miriam Youel, and Ziggy Edney) all contributed a lot this year.”
Heading into diving, Conard knew it needed some big performances to have any chance in the meet – and that is exactly what they got.
Junior Ali Colburn set a new school record – her third of the season – with 257.05 points to easily win the event. Colburn set the tone on the opening dive by pulling in scores of 8.5, 8, and 8 (out of 10) from the three judges. She would go on to win the event by nearly 69 points, but teammates Rachel Giroux and Gabrielle Alekshun finished 2-3 to pull the Chieftains to within 8 points of Hall.
Colburn said she was a bit nervous entering diving. “I try not to think about scores. I can’t control them, and I just did as well as I could for the team,” said the junior.
Once diving was over, Hall picked right up where it had left off. Junior Molly Norquist would win her second individual event of the night in the 100 butterfly, followed by senior teammate Dominguez. Julia Seguro was fourth. But it was the Hall sweep in the 100 freestyle that sealed the deal for the Warriors. Booth, a senior, would win with freshman Ziggy Edney finishing second and senior captain Hannah Ganey taking third. Hall had a 22-point lead after seven events.
In the 500 freestyle, it was Tiernan – the third member of her family to swim for McClure at Hall – cruising to a win in a time of 5:17:56. She was followed by Conard sophomore Jane Harhay who swam a personal best and then hopped out of the pool and anchored the Conard second-place relay in the next event, teaming up with seniors Sophia Lynch and Cecilia Williams and junior Claire Dombrofski. Hall’s foursome of Fox, Dominguez, Booth, and Edney would win the event.
Fox stepped back in for the 100 backstroke and took the event over teammate Seguro, with Conard junior Aspen Rosner finishing third for the Chieftains.
The race of the night came in the 11th event – the 100-yard breaststroke. The race featured Conard twin sisters Liv and Tess Sherry, along with teammate Ella Switzer, facing off with Hall’s Zhao, and Gwen Bye. The big crowd gathered at the Cornerstone Pool was into this race from the start. The Sherry sisters would lead the way going 1-2 (Liv, then Tess) followed by Zhao and then Bye. That was the first, and only, individual event that Conard would win on the night.
Hall, already with more than enough points to clinch the win and a 7-1 season, closed it out with a win in the 400-yard freestyle relay. The team of Nordquist, Youel, Edney, and Tiernan would outpace Conard’s entry of Williams, Sherry, Sherry, and Harhey.
The focus for both teams now shifts to the State Open, where they will look for wins in individual and relay events.
Tradition has it that the victorious team gets to toss their coach into the pool to celebrate winning the rivalry matchup, but McClure – citing COVID concerns, declined.
One thing McClure is not doing, though, is thinking about stepping away from a position he has held for nearly four decades. “If I didn’t like doing it, I wouldn’t do it,” he said of coaching the boys and girls teams at Hall. “As long as I stay healthy, I just like swimming and watching really good swimmers,” he added.
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