From an undefeated regular season, to winning the FCIAC championship, to capturing the Class LL title, the fall just kept getting more exciting for the Greenwich High School girls swimming team. And Sunday, the Cardinals’ excitement level reached its highest, as they achieved their ultimate goal.
Winners of the Class LL and FCIAC team championships, the Cardinals completed the triple crown Sunday, concluding an absolutely perfect season in style.
Greenwich ended its memorable 2021 season with its third title, finishing first in the team standings at the CIAC State Open Championships. On the strength of their impressive depth, the Cardinals scored 505.5 team points at the ultra-competitive 49-team meet, held at Cornerstone Aquatics Center in West Hartford.
Darien placed second in the team standings with 377 points, followed by Glastonbury (364.5), Ridgefield (304.5) and Staples (300). The victory gave Greenwich its 22nd State Open championship overall and fifth in the last six seasons.
“I would say that it was a wonderful mix of focus and execution and dominance, which was pretty fun,” said Greenwich coach Brendan Heller, who concluded his first season at the helm. “Today’s meet was awesome, because this was the biggest stage, so for us to rise up in a nervous, stressful situation and be able to do our thing, it goes to show we were very well prepared for this.”
The Cardinals won each postseason meet by using their depth to their advantage and improving most of their times with each competition.
“It’s been really amazing, we’ve been working really, really hard during the season and I think it’s paying off now,” Greenwich senior quad-captain Isabella Malchow said. “We have stepped up our game each championship and we’ve shown that good spirit and hard work pays off.”
The State Open meet, which was held before a packed house Cornerstone Aquatics, began with Greenwich earning the gold medal in the 200-yard medley relay. Freshman Sena Bozkurt, freshman Michelle Weissler, senior Caterina Li and sophomore Payton Foster combined for a championship time of 1:45.92. Darien was the runner-up (1:47.05), followed by Amity (1:48.90).
In one of the meet’s most exciting races, Trumbull senior Lauren Walsh won the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:00.19. Right behind her was Foster, who touched the wall in 2:00.35. Aislin Farris of Endfield-Somers was third (2:02.48) and Greenwich received eighth and 11th-place finishes, respectively, from Li (2:07.75) and sophomore Sydney Jee (2:09.53).
Foster earned top honors in the 500-yard freestyle, winning the State Open title with a time of 4:54.59. Wilton junior Virginia Hastings placed second (4:59.76) and Lauralton Hall senior Claire Kehley finished third (5:00.85).
“That was really tough, but I had my friends in there with me, it was fun,” Foster said of racing in the 500 freestyle.
The meet marked Foster’s first appearance at the State Open, since last season was shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s incredible, this team means so much to me and being able to get to the Opens this year – last year we didn’t have one – it’s awesome and it means so much,” Foster said.
Glastonbury junior Avery Kudlac won the 200-yard freestyle title, clocking in at 1:51.50. Kehley of Lauralton Hall took second in 1:53.03 and Seymour junior Sophia Velleco had a third-place showing in the race. Junior Daisy Decker posted Greenwich’s best finish in the race, placing 10th in 1:56.26. Senior Emma Robinson, one of the Cardinals’ captains registered a time of 1:57.15 (15th place) and Malchow finished the race in 1:58.27.
“This was my first State Open and it was amazing,” Decker said. “I went out there and raced and it was so fun being able to race. It was so great to go out there for one last race and race her Emma (Robinson) in the 200 freestyle.”
The 50-yard freestyle saw Staples freshman Annam Olasewere win the event in a state and State Open time of 22.58 seconds. McKenna Dale held the previous record (23.03). Fairfield Ludlowe sophomore took the silver medal (23.44) and Riley Kudlac earned the bronze medal (23.53). Darien junior Natalia Ferranto finished fourth in the race (23.87).
Li posted a third-place finish for the Cards in the 100-yard butterfly, which was won by Darien sophomore Miller Ward (55.38).
“It was a hard race and I was glad to have my teammates on my side and it was great to end the season like that,” said Li, also one of Greenwich’s captains. “I am so proud and I’m really excited to end the season like this. Going in, we knew it would be hard, but we put in the effort and we’re just really happy it all paid off.”
Bozkurt also had a top-10 finish for GHS in the 100 butterfly, placing ninth (57.60). Staples’ Annam Olasewere broke another state record in the 100 freestyle, registering a winning time of 50.21. The previous record was set by Elizabeth McDonald in 2011. Sophomore Sofia Wang had Greenwich’s best finish in the event, placing 12th in 53.78.
Staples’ 200 freestyle relay team of Jessica Qi, Ella Alpert, Ayaan Olasewere and Annam Olasewere also broke a state and State Open record with a first-place time of 1:35.94. Cheshire set the previous record back in 1996.
In the 100 backstroke, Bozkurt was sixth (58.92) and Malchow finished 10th (59.26). Farris was the State Open backstroke champion (56.38).
“That was my last race, which is kind of sad, but overall, it was such a fun season and great four years,” Malchow said. “It’s really amazing coming out on top in our last meet of the season.”
Walsh won the 100-yard breaststroke in a state and State Open time of 1:01.04. Weissler finished a strong second for Greenwich in her first State Open meet.
“It was the last race of my freshman year and I just wanted to give it my all and it was great,” said Weissler, who has certainly enjoyed her first season on the squad. “It was kind of surreal, it was a very fun experience, I loved every moment of it. I learned a lot from the girls about swimming and about being a high schooler.”
Said Heller: “It was fun, Lauren Walsh was incredible today, the Staples relays have been incredible all season and Darien was awesome and they pushed us to our limits. This incapsulates high school swimming, so to be on the winning side for the first time in my experience it feels good. It feels good to say we’re state champs.”
In the team standings, Weston (258), Cheshire (247), Newtown (215), Hall (203) and Amity (197) rounded out the top-10 squads. The Cards entered the State Open with a head start in team points (41 points), behind senior Annie Bingle’s sixth-place finish at the Open diving championships earlier this week and junior Javiera Garcia’s 14th place finish.
Senior Sophie Sichtnik gave the Cardinals a seventh-place finish in the 100 breaststroke in her final high school career meet (1:06.62), while Jee took ninth (1:06.88). In the meet’s final event – the 400 freestyle relay – Li, Robinson, Wang and Foster combined for a third-place finish in 3:31.25. Staples won the race in 3:27.46.
“This season has been so amazing in and out the pool, everyone has been working together and working so hard,” Robinson said. “Without our collaboration, all of our successes wouldn’t have been possible and I’m so proud of this team and everything we’ve done this year.”
“All these girls are amazing and it so awesome to swim with them,” Foster said. “I’m sad the season is over, but I’m so excited for next season.”