After pouring plenty of energy into each event during Thursday night’s FCIAC Championships, the members of Ridgefield High School’s girls swimming team were more than happy to jump into Greenwich High’s pool one more time at the exciting meet’s conclusion – and for great reason.
It was time to celebrate for the Tigers immediately after the final team scores were announced at the end of the ultra-competitive 13-team meet.
Receiving numerous outstanding swims throughout the much-anticipated meet before a cheering crowd, Ridgefield won the FCIAC team championship, amassing 375 points. The victory gave the Tigers their second FCIAC swim championship – they last won the team title in 2016.
“It was a team effort,” Ridgefield coach Paul Marchese said. “One of the things I was talking to the girls about was every single person on the team has a job and at the end of the day, if everyone does their job we are going to be successful no matter what happens.”
Darien was the runner-up with a team score of 335 points, followed by host Greenwich (264), Staples (240) and Wilton (196). Last season saw Greenwich win the FCIAC championship, while Ridgefield placed second. The Cardinals have claimed the FCIAC title numerous times over the years and have a young squad this fall.
“This is the epitome of high school swimming, so it was good to see all the kids out here having fun,” Greenwich coach Brendan Heller said. “As a team, we swam really great. There were a lot of first timers in the meet. We kind of kept getting better as the meet went on.”
Said Darien coach Marj Trifone: “We had a great meet. We swam hard, we feel like we had some great times, we were pushed a lot and Ridgefield is good. Coming in, we knew they were going to be tough and they had a great meet.”
Junior Sydney Jee, one of the captains, highlighted Greenwich’s stellar performance at the FCIAC finals. Jee was the FCIAC champion in the 100-yard breaststroke. Jee swam to a winning time of 1:05.91, while Abigayle Bleil, a New Canaan senior, was second (1:06.06). Ridgefield’s Riley McGerald finished third in 1:06.94.
“I was honestly really, really nervous for this race,” Jee noted. “But my teammates really helped me calm down and I think that I did well for being so anxious. The atmosphere was really exciting. It puts a lot of pressure on you, but I think it helps a lot. I think that we did really well, considering we’re a very young team. We really outdid ourselves and I’m really proud of everybody.”
Said Heller: “Sydney Jee had our top finish so it’s great to keep the 100 breaststroke title, because we won it last year.”
Cardinals senior Daisy Decker turned in a fourth-place effort in the 500-yard freestyle. Decker finished the race with a time of 5:12.31. Wilton’s Virginia Hastings showed her endurance in claiming the gold medal in the 500 freestyle (5:04.45). Kelly of Ridgefield earned the silver medal (5:07.65), followed by Darien’s Erickon (5:09.56
“I was really happy with my time. I was full of emotion,” Decker said. “I’m a senior, so this was my last home meet. To come out with a best time of the season and overall in my life, it was great.”
The meet began with Darien’s foursome of senior Margaret Erickson, junior Miller Ward, senior Emily Kalvaitis and senior Natalia Ferranto combining for a winning time of 1:47.21 in the 200-yard medley relay, giving their squad 40 points. In one of the meet’s closest races, Ridgefield was right behind the Blue Wave, finishing a blink of an eye behind them in 1:47.65.
Fairfield Ludlowe finished third in the 200 medley relay (1:49.82), followed by Greenwich (1:50.17). Junior Annabelle Guarnera, one of the captains, Jee, freshman Melissa Geiger and Decker represented the Cardinals in the 200 medley relay race.
Fairfield Ludlowe junior Kathleen Murray captured the gold medal in the 200-yard freestyle, touching the wall in 1:49.82. In another extremely close finish, Staples sophomore Annam Olaswere placed second in 1:49.93. Sophomore Bridget Kelly of Ridgefield took third (1:52.97), followed by teammate Ava Ward (1:53.13).
“I’m pretty proud of how I swam,” Ridgefield’s Kelly said. “After all the hard work that we have been through, it really showed through during this meet tonight.”
Guarnera (1:57.81) and Jee (1:59.66) were seventh and eighth, respectively, for Greenwich in the 200 freestyle.
Ward gave Darien a first-place finish in the 200-yard individual medley, winning the FCIAC title in the event with a time of 2:06.10. Ludlowe freshman Ella Gussen finished second (2:07.47), followed by Wilton senior Virginia Hastings (2:08.07).
“Our team swam their hearts out,” Ward said. “We swam with grit and we swam with all the passion in the world and there is no better team that I’d rather be on than Darien High School swimming.
“I can’t do it without my team they are there for me,” Ward continued. “We knew it was going to be tough physically, but mentally my team being there for me pushed me through everything. A lot of people had best times today, so I can’t wait to see what we go when we’re in states.”
In the 50-yard freestyle, Staples sophomore Ayaan Olasewere earned top honors, posting a time of 24.11. Right behind her was Darien’s Ferranto, who registered a time of 24.14. Annie Edwards of Westhill-Stamford, a junior, took third (24.64), while St. Joseph senior Daniela Tanaka Sales was fourth (24.78) in the tight race. Greenwich’s Decker posted a ninth-place finish in 25.14 seconds.
Sophomore Lily Archibald gave Ridgefield another individual triumph, touching the wall first in the 100 butterfly (55.17). Ward was second for the Blue Wave (55.54) and Ludlowe’s Murray had a third-place finish (55.60).
“Lily Archibald swam her way to first place after being seeded second in the 100 fly, which was very exciting to watch,” Marchese said. “A 55 in that race was so good to see.”
For the Cardinals, Geiger, one of the squad’s numerous underclassmen, placed seventh in the 100 butterfly (1:00.44).
“We’re using this meet as a tune-up for next week’s state trials and the state finals,” Heller noted. “It was good to see kids step up in pressure situations for the first time.”
The Swimmer of the Meet Award was presented to Staples sophomore Annam Olasewere. The sensational sophomore broke a state and of course, FCIAC record in winning the conference 100-yard freestyle title in 50.12 seconds.
“I was really tired going into the race, I didn’t have much rest,” Olasewere said. “The first 25 I got out pretty strong, which was good. I went a little slower in the third lap, but I brought it home. It was a solid race. I’ve been training for the longer distances this year. I dropped time for what I was like last year – I’m dropping so it’s good.”
Olaswere plans to improve her performances in the 100 freestyle in the upcoming state and State Open competitions.
“I’m hoping to break the 50 barrier, maybe even drop to 48,” she said. “I’m hoping to go faster on that third lap and keep it strong.”
Staples’ star swimmer hopes to drop time in the 200 freestyle as well.
“I just need to work on perfecting the small details,” Olaswere said. “We still have three more meets.”
Ayaan Olaswere of Staples was the runner-up in the 100 freestyle (52.54) and Greenwich received a seventh-place finish from freshman Wesley Wales in the race (54.56).
Staples quartet of Annam Olasewere, Carly Waldman, Libby Turner and Ayaan Olasewere combined to win the 200 freestyle relay (1:36.86), while Ridgefield was the runner-up (1:37.71). Wales, Guarnera, sophomore Katherine Nalepka and junior Tess Furno combined for a fourth-place finish for GHS (1:41.36).
Gussen of Ridgefield was declared the victor of the 100 backstroke race after Archibald and Westhill/Stamford’s Olivia Cieciwa accidently swam in the wrong lanes and were disqualified. They finished first and second, respectively, but their times were not allowed, so Gussen who had the third-best time was awarded the first-place medal in the event.
“Lily should have won the event, but it’s still nice to win,” said Gussen, who posted a time of 59.58. “I was just trying to swim fast, I got off to a good start. I’m proud of how well our team did. At the start of the season, we knew our team would do well, we’ve had the right training all season.”
Geiger earned the fifth-place medal for the Cards in the 100-backstroke, clocking in at 1:02.10. Ridgefield put the finishing touch on their memorable, championship night by winning the 400 freestyle in 3:28.79, an FCIAC record time. Archibald, Ava Ward, Bridget Kelly and Keira Giles represented the Tigers in the event.
“The girls absolutely crushed that last relay,” Marchese said. “My heart was pounding the whole time. It was great to see the girls reach the potential they have.”
“The 4 free relay – three sophomores and a freshman on the relay – hopefully, we can continue that race throughout states and the next couple of years,” Marchese continued.
Staples was second in the 400 freestyle relay (3:34.30), while Greenwich’s Decker, Wales, Geiger and Jee combined to finish fifth (3:40.49). Jee came right back to swim in the 400 freestyle relay after capturing the gold medal in the 100 breaststroke.
“The 400 freestyle relay was really hard, but my teammates helped me get prepared for it,” Jee said.
Up next for Greenwich is the CIAC Class LL Championships. The Class LL trials are scheduled to take place on November 12 at Cornerstone Aquatics in Middletown. The Class LL finals are slated to be held on Nov. 16, at Cornerstone and the CIAC State Open Championships will take place at Yale University on Nov. 19. The Cardinals won both the Class LL and State Open team titles in 2021.
“It’s definitely a learning experience, we have a lot of freshmen and a bunch of them made ‘A’ finals,” Decker said. “We were just ready to roll today. It was definitely a great moment for them today. I’m looking forward to states, I’m excited for the next journey.”
“The team to beat in the state is Ridgefield, they’ll loaded and they’re not going away.” Heller said. “We are going to be fired up and ready to go. I am happy for them and proud of their swimmers they dominated all season long.”
Categories: Fall sports, Greenwich High
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