Swimmers from West Hartford’s Hall and Conard high schools supported each other, as they broke multiple records this season.
By Ronni Newton
The swim team school record board at Cornerstone Aquatics Center in West Hartford is being updated – reflecting the exciting season that both high schools had this year.
Entering the Class L State Championship at Southern Connecticut State University on March 12, Hall swimmers were two seconds off the 200 Medley Relay record set last season. They were also chasing the 400 Freestyle Relay record after a strong showing at the Class L Trials, and individually, senior Patrick Keith of Hall was looking to break the 100 Backstroke record.
By the end of the night, the Warriors had broken three team records.
The 200 Medley Relay team of Keith, Jackson Russo, Ian Harker and Tommy Sullivan finished in 1:38.89, taking fourth place in the meet.
Then Patrick Keith set a new school record of 53.48 in the 100 Backstroke, finishing in fourth place.
Crosstown rival Conard High School had already come close to their 200 Freestyle Relay record set at the CCC West Conference meet in 2011, and had improved upon their time at Class L State Trials, but they were still more a second and a half off the school record.
At the Class L Trials, the team dropped seven seconds from their 400 Freestyle Relay seed time, but were still 13 seconds away from the school record, also set in 2011.
With the Hall team cheering them on, the Chieftains, like their crosstown rivals, finished the meet with a record-breaking night. Auston Comrie, Julian Flores, Colby Roy, and Ben Arky set a new school record in the 200 finishing in 1:28.65, and taking third place.
The final event of the Class L Championship was the 400 Freestyle Relay, and swimmers from both teams were already tired after competing in two, or even three, previous events. Keith had just broken a school record in the Backstroke 10 minutes earlier, and Flores, Conard’s anchor, swam the 100 Breaststroke just five minutes before the 400 Freestyle Relay began.
Conard’s heat was first – and Roy, Comrie, Arky, and Flores fought through their exhaustion, dominating their heat and setting a new school record of 3:16.97.
One heat later, Hall’s Connor Skarzynski, Facundo Garcia Calione, Keith, and Harker finished their night with a record-setting time of 3:19.95.
“I was so thrilled for the guys in the relays. They’ve had their eye on those records since last season and they couldn’t have gotten here without hard work and sheer force of will,” Conard coach Jen Pollard said after the Class L meet. “There’s a reason those records have been on the board for eight years – they were incredible times and it took the right four people with the right talent, work ethic, and attitude to bring them down.”
The swim teams not only share a record board, but they also share coaches and practice times – and town support.
“For one day a year we are enemies. The rest of the year we are friends, teammates on club teams, and supporters,” said Pollard. “We cheer for each other, high five each other’s successes, and hang out and laugh together.”
Watching the two teams on deck together at swim meets like the Class L Championship and State Open makes the coaches proud that the two schools work so well together toward a shared goal: to be great athletes and positive roles models.
“The constant presence at the pool of the other team eliminates most, if not all, of the ill will or animosity that might exist between crosstown rivals that never get to know each other because they only see each other once or twice per year,” said Hall coach John McClure.
Coaches and parents said that this year’s annual senior night, where Conard and Hall competed against each other, was one of the most exciting meets between the two teams in many years. The meet ended with Conard narrowly winning the CCC West Division Championship, beating Hall 95-91.
And of course the night ended with cheers, pats on the back, and a spirit of good sportsmanship between friends.
In addition to those who broke records, many other athletes from both schools qualified to swim at the Class L meet.
The following students from Conard competed: Liam Switzer (200 Medley Relay), Gavin Sherry (100 Breaststroke, 200 Medley Relay), Justice Seymour (200 Medley Relay), Lenny Belyaev (200 Medley Relay, 100 Breaststroke), Arky (50 and 100 Freestyle), Comrie (50 and 100 Freestyle), Roy (50 and 100 Freestyle), Ben Giroux (Diving), Flores (100 Butterfly and 100 Breaststroke), and Jett Rosner (500 Freestyle).
The following students from Hall competed: Skarzynski (200 and 500 Freestyle, 200 Freestyle Relay), Garcia Calione (200 and 100 Freestyle), Harker (200 Individual Medley and 100 Butterfly), Sullivan (50 Freestyle and 100 Freestyle, 200 Freestyle Relay), Russo (50 Freestyle and 100 Breaststroke), Ryan Mendoza (Diving), Kobe Dominguez (100 Butterfly and 100 Backstroke), Andrew Sun (100 Freestyle and 100 Breaststroke, 200 Freestyle Relay), and Chris Liddell (200 Freestyle Relay).
Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford!