Greenwich High

Greenwich boys swimming team concludes its perfect season by winning another State Open championship

Photo by David Fierro: The Greenwich High School boys swimming team gathers with its coaches after winning the team title at the CIAC State Open Championships at Cornerstone Aquatics in West Hartford on March 19, 2022.

Greenwich’s boys swimming team began Saturday’s CIAC State Open Championships by winning the 200-yard medley relay, ended it with a first-place finish in the 400-yard freestyle race, then put the finishing touch on its memorable day by taking a final victory dip in the pool at Cornerstone Aquatics Center.

The venue may have changed, but the scenario mentioned above remained the same for the Cardinals, who like everyone else, competed in their first State Open meet for the first time since 2019.

Only two athletes from the Cardinals’ current team were on the 2019 squad, which captured the triple crown – the State Open, Class LL and FCIAC team titles, so this week’s postseason state meets were a new experience for the majority of coach Terry Lowe’s program. Yet Greenwich competed like a team that had been there and done it before, cruising to another State Open team championship.

Winning six of the 12 events, Greenwich amassed a score of 611 points to finish first in team standings at the 50-team State Open Championships held at Cornerstone Aquatics Center. Pomperaug placed second in the team standings with 367 points, followed by New Canaan (357), Ridgefield (318.5) and Darien (272).

Photo by David Fierro: Greenwich’s boys swimming team took a final dip in the pool after winning the State Open on March 19, 2022, in West Hartford. The Cardinals capped an undefeated season with their third championship of the season.

The convincing victory gave Greenwich its 37th State Open title – by far the most of any team in the state. Also, this season, the Cardinals claimed the FCIAC team championship for the 51st time in 52 seasons and captured its eighth consecutive Class LL title. Greenwich has now garnered the State Open championship the last eight times the meet has been held – the competition did not take place in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 guidelines.

“It was such a weird season, but at least we knew we had something to look forward to and shoot for at the end with the state championships back in style,” Lowe said. “But during December, with COVID quarantines, we were down to practicing with four kids. To get the group back together and perform this well at this meet was phenomenal.”

Seniors Justin Jacob and Ryan Jee, both of whom served as captains, are the Cardinals who appeared in the State Open as freshmen.

“I haven’t been here since freshman year, we haven’t been to this meet since freshman year, so it’s definitely emotional,” Jacob said. “I’m happy to share it with the team. It’s great to be here and I’m happy to win this title with my team.”

Greenwich’s 200 medley relay team finishes first. Click the arrow to watch.

The Cards began the meet in championship style, earning a first-place finish in the 200-yard medley relay. Junior Liam Flaherty, senior captain Mic DiLascia, Jacob and junior Aiden Bucaria combined for a winning time of 1:34.70 for GHS. Darien finished second (1:35.79), followed by Pomperaug (1:35.83).

“The relay was a lot of fun, it’s definitely a once in a lifetime experience and I’m glad I got to experience it today,” said Jacob, whose split was 23.55 in the 200 medley relay.

Sophomore Felix Flakstad had Greenwich’s best finish at the Open in the 200-yard freestyle, placing fourth with a time of 1:43.56. Ridgefield sophomore Jack Clancy won the 200 freestyle title (1:40.63) and New Canaan freshman Jack Haley was the runner-up in 1:42.41. Cardinals sophomore Kegan Clark took ninth (1:45.46).

Greenwich totaled plenty of team points in the 200-yard individual medley. Jee, Bucaria and Flaherty finished 2-3-4, respectively for the Cards, who opened a 193-128 lead over Ridgefield following the 200 IM with the impressive performance in the race. Daniel Hand sophomore Elliot Lee placed first (1:48.86). Jee earned the silver medal (1:49.80), Bucaria took third (1:51.42) and Flaherty was fourth (1:51.74).

Jee’s day also included an outstanding first place finish in the 100 butterfly. He registered a time of 49.29 to garner the gold medal. Nate Oppenheim of Barlow-Bethel was second (49.93).

Greenwich senior Ryan Jee won the 100 butterfly title at the State Open and placed second in the 200 IM.

“I feel so prepared for this meet,” Jee said. “We’ve been preparing all season and our progression this season was a little different from everyone else. We are not going to be our best at FCIACs or LLs, but I’m really happy with how we swam today.”

Bristol co-op senior Mikel Palaj was the 50 freestyle winner (21.13), followed by Norwalk-McMahon sophomore Mike Kvashchuk (21.31). The Cardinals received a points boost heading into Saturday’s swimming portion of the State Open, thanks to a winning performance by junior Whitaker Grover, who scored 565.25 points over 11 rounds. Junior Jayden Satir finished seventh in the 1-meter diving finals for the Cardinals (483.25).

DiLascia had Greenwich’s best finish in the 100-yard freestyle (11th place, 48.01), while Clark was 12th (48.15). Lee of Hand was the Open champion, touching the wall in 45.72.

Flakstad sparked GHS in the 500-yard freestyle race, finishing fifth in 4:43.20. Clancy claimed the gold medal for Ridgefield (4:34.34) and Darien senior Ryan Roberts was second (4:38.01).

Greenwich’s foursome of Jee, Clark, DiLascia and senior Andrew Dyment stepped up in the 200-yard freestyle relay, winning the race in 1:26.56.

Greenwich senior captain Mic DiLascia proudly displays his medals at the CIAC State Open.

“We were seeded third for the 200 free relay and coach told us beforehand to make an aggressive start and we did that,” DiLascia said.

Added Lowe: “The 200 free relay I said ‘you guys have to go for it because this is your chance to shine’ and they really came through. It was great to see. They really shined at the right time.”

Westhill-Stamford’s foursome of Peter Mottolese, Peter Christian, Jaden Lang and John Frankowski were second in the 200 freestyle relay (1:26.77), followed by Darien (1:27.03).

Flaherty placed sixth in the 100 backstroke (52.08), while Jacob was seventh (52.15). Brendan Conners from North Haven-co-op took the title (49.90).

“I just gave it my all, it’s my last day ever being a Cardinal and I just gave everything I had and put all the work in I trained for and just came out here and swam as fast as I could,” Jacob said.

His father also served as captain of Greenwich’s swim team.

“It meant everything to me to be a leader on the Cardinals – the same as my dad – the program, it’s a dynasty.”

Justin Jacob enjoyed a successful season as one of the captains of the Greenwich boys swim team.

Bucaria followed up a first-place effort in the 100 breaststroke at the Class LL Championships with a winning finish at Saturday’s State Open, posting a time of 56.31. Darien sophomore Thomas Dupont had a second-place finish (56.60), while DiLascia took fourth in 57.20.

“Being able to come out here and win the breaststroke was a great feeling for me,” Bucaria said. “I’ve worked hard in practice, so I’m really proud of that.”

Greenwich junior Aiden Bucaria was the 100-yard breaststroke champion at the 2022 State Open.

Bucaria appreciated the meet’s overall atmosphere.

“It’s awesome, this is the first Open win for the 11 of the 13 guys here,” Bucaria said. “Just Justin and Ryan were here as freshmen, so it was the first time for almost everyone on the team, going through FCIAC LLs, State Open, so everyone really showed up and did great.”

Click to see Aiden Bucaria’s finish.

Fittingly, Greenwich concluded the meet by winning the 400 freestyle relay, as Flaherty, Clark, Bucaria and Jee combined for a time of 3:06.74. Ridgefield placed second in 3:07.85.

“I didn’t think we had a chance to win all three relays,” Lowe said. “We won all three relays, 100 breaststroke, 100 fly and diving so six events – that’s pretty impressive.”

Greenwich coach Terry Lowe congratulates his swimmers at the conclusion of the CIAC State Open.

Indeed, the State Open triumph was especially significant to the seniors on the squad and captains.

“It feels great, because I haven’t been to states because of COVID,” DiLascia said. “Freshman year, I didn’t qualify, so this first time feels great for me. To finish off my high school career off like this was wonderful. It’s all about the work we do in practice. Coach’s process – the way we suit up for specific meets and how we shave afterwards – it’s all about the process and it pays off at the end.”

“It’s such a great honor to be a captain of this team,” said Jee, who will swim at Colgate. “I’ve been swimming on this team since my freshman year. We went to the Open at Yale my freshman year and I looked up to my captains so much and it’s such an honor that I can be with these boys during a win like this.”

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