MIDDLETOWN, March 15 – Two years ago, Avon High senior Riley Strassner became the first swimmer to win an individual state championship for the Falcons when he took the 200-yard freestyle title at the Class M championship meet. Strassner repeated the achievement a year ago.
This year, Strassner knocked off nearly 3½ seconds off his qualifying time in the 200 free but finished third behind Middletown senior Jack Doherty and Sheehan’s Conor Robinson. Strassner also took third in the 100 freestyle and swam the anchor leg to help Avon’s 400 freestyle relay team finish sixth with a new school record time.
Junior Kyle Emery had his best finish ever – taking second in the 100 backstroke – to help the Falcons finish seventh at Tuesday’s Class M championship meet with 272 points. Diver Brendan Downey finished sixth along with Avon’s 200 medley relay team. It is the second-highest score that Avon has achieved in Class M. A year ago, the Falcons finished sixth with 286 points.
It’s been a busy winter for Strassner, who will be attending Georgetown University to play soccer in the fall. He hasn’t missed a swim practice but he also has been training three-to-four days a week at Oakwood Academy to prepare for his collegiate career.
“He’s an incredible athlete and he stuck through his swimming team through it all,” Avon High coach Diana Cesaro said. “I knew he wouldn’t taper as a typical swimmer does because he is still playing soccer through his taper. He swam incredible today. He finished third and All-State in two really competitive events and then flew as the anchor of the 400 relay. He only swims during the high school season, not year around like many of the other top finishers.”
No one was close to Doherty in the 200 free, an event that Doherty won with a record time of 1:39.57. Robison taking a very distant second with a time of 1:43.05 and Strassner right behind him in 1:43.27.
Doherty was just as dominant in the 100 freestyle, winning with a record time of 45.27 seconds. Pomperaug’s Daniel McNamara was second in 47.36 with Strassner taking third in 47.67 seconds. It was a stellar afternoon for Doherty, who was also the lead swimmer on Middletown’s state championship winning team in the 200 free relay and the anchor swimmer on the Dragon’s 400 freeestyle relay team that finished second.
Emery was seeded fifth in the 100 back after qualifying with a time of 56.20. In the final, he surged with a personal-best time of 53.72 seconds, which trailed the pace set by Pomperaug’s Henry Hu (52.31). Emery also swam a personal best times in the 100 freestyle (17th, 49.88) and on his legs of the 200 medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay.
“We had terrific swims all around,” Cesaro said.
Downey was sixth in diving with a score of 337.95 points – his best-ever finish at the Class M meet.
Two Avon relays finished sixth. The 200 medley relay (Emery, Sam Johnson, Megan Foley, Andre Richard) was sixth with a time of 1:44.17 along with the Falcons’ 400 freestyle relay team of Richard, Maksymilian Jaremko, Emery and Strassner in 3:21.87. The 400 freestyle relay team chopped more than eight seconds off their qualifying time and set a new school record in the process.
Richard, a freshman, had a personal best time on his anchor leg portion of the 200 medley relay and on the leadoff leg (51.74 seconds) of the 400 freestyle relay. Jaremko had a personal best time in the 500 freestyle, finishing 17th in 5:11.92. Sam Johnson (13, 1:05.61) and Alex Traktovenko (17, 1:05.30) swam well in the 100 breast stroke.
Avon’s 200 freestyle relay team (Jared Culbertson, Connor Murphy, Emily Foley, Traktovenko) finished 13th in 1:37.86, cutting two seconds off their qualifying time.
Pomperaug easily captured the Class M championship with a 878 to 576 advantage over defending champion Brookfield. It was the 10th straight state title for Panthers, who won eight straight titles in Class L before moving down to Class M this winter.