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Balanced effort lifts Avon swimmers to CCC North championship

The Avon High boys swimming team won the CCC North championship this winter. (Photo courtesy Brendan Smith)

The 2020 high school boys swimming season ended unexpectedly before the post-season could be completed due the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. A year ago, the Falcons got the opportunity to swim in seven meets but they were on paper – virtual time trials in different pools.

While there were some restrictions in terms of attendance, the 2022 season was a step back toward normalcy for the Avon High boys swimming and diving program.

“While facing some COVID challenges early on, for the most part, we had a pretty clean year,” Falcon assistant coach Brendan Smith said. “This year has certainly signified grown in the program. Our message has been around the message of family and restoring that idea of family after a few hectic COVID years where practices were restricted and not everyone could be together.

After splitting their first two meets, Avon ripped off a seven-meet win streak and won their first CCC divisional championship since 2017. The Falcons (8-1, 5-0 CCC North) ran the table in the CCC North.

Avon followed that up with a victory in the CCC North championship meet on March 5 in Newington with a 13-point win over E.O. Smith/Tolland, 300-287, thanks to depth across the lineup. Forty-one Avon swimmers earned a personal best in the meet.

The Falcons had three individual champions at the CCC North meet – Sarah Grady (diving), Rhys Vale (500 freestyle) and Owen Vale (200 IM) but they had five swimmers finish second in their respective events and in the 200 medley relay. Rhys Vale had a personal-best time of 4:57.7 as he won the 500 freestyle by nearly nine seconds.

In two events, the Falcons had three swimmers finish in the top six to collect plenty of points. Grady, Gabrielle Fisher (third) and Lauren Frey (five) picked up points in diving while Alexander Gauthier (second), Rhys Vale (third) and Gautham Kumar (five) picked up points in the 100 breast stroke.

Oliver Akers (100 fly), Gauthier (50 free, 100 breast stroke), Anton Arias-Cameron (100 freestyle) and Rhys Vale (100 back) each finished second in their respective events.

Gauther had personal best times in the 50 free and 100 breast stroke.

Thirteen Avon swimmers qualified to compete in the Class M championship meet trials. The top 16 in each event advance to the championship meet.

Junior Rhys Vale (500 free, 100 back), freshman Owen Vale (200 IM, 100 breast) and senior Oliver Akers (200 free, 100 fly) have been dominant swimmers all season for the Falcons. Each have qualified in multiple events for the Class M championships.

Gauthier (50 free, 100 breast), Camison (50 free, 100 free), Kumar (100 fly, 100 breast), Udayan Chidambaram (100 back), Ryan Jezek (50 Free, 100 back), Arjun Padwal (200 IM, 500 Free) also qualified for the Class M trials along with four girls on the 400 freestyle relay (Madi Ellsworth, Carla D’Amato, Shreya Sinha and Sarah Pena).

Grady, Fisher and Frey competed in the Class M diving championships earlier this week with Grady finishing second and Fisher taking tenth.

In many years, there was a Splash Classic – an unofficial girls-only championship meet for girls swimming during the boys swimming season. Due to the pandemic, it was cancelled this year.

One of the biggest highlights of the year was the inspiration from junior Ava Bloom, Smith said.

Bloom was a swimmer for the Falcons who suffered a traumatic injury to her spine while playing in the snow in March 2021 and is now paralyzed from the waist down.

“At the beginning of our season Ava wanted to come back, but as you can imagine she had no idea how being around the pool or around the team, without the ability to swim anymore, would be for her. It wasn’t always easy, but Ava kept showing up,” Smith said.

“In her talks with (head coach) Travis (Morse) and I earlier in the year we told her that she was far from just a team manager, she was a coach, and that she was going to fall in love with coaching just like we had,” Smith said.

“By the end of the season Ava is truly a coach,” Smith said. “She refers to the younger swimmers she works with every day as her kids. They, and our entire team, showed her the love and appreciation they show for any coach.

“Ava was our rock all year, she is the emotional leader of this team, and it was her (not Travis or I) that was given and still holds the team medal for the CCC North championship. When she tried to give it to Travis at the end of the meet, he assured her that it was all hers and we wouldn’t be there without her.”


Avon 2022 boys swimming results

Jan. 8: SOUTH WINDSOR W 95-85
Jan. 12: @Bristol Central/Bristol Eastern/St. Paul L 89-96
Jan. 22: HALL W 102-83
Jan. 25: @Rocky Hill* W 93-74
Feb. 5: NEWINGTON* W 95-85
Feb. 8: @Wethersfield* W 100-84
Feb. 15: @E.O. Smith/Tolland* W 102-84
Feb. 18: @Hartford Public* W 87-24
March 5: CCC North championship meet: Avon 300, E.O. Smith/Tolland 287, Newington 240, Wethersfield 239
*CCC North meet


2022 CCC North boys swimming championship meet
At Newington
Team results –
1. Avon 300, 2. E.O. Smith/Tolland 287, 3. Newington 240, 4. Wethersfield 239, 5. Rocky Hill
Individual results
200 yard medley relay: E.O. Smith/Tolland (Austin Romey, Mason Wilde, Anthony Song, Anderson Scigliano) 1:44.98, 2. Avon (Rhys Vale, Owen Vale, Oliver Akers, Alexander Gauthier) 1:49.38, Newington 1:50.48, 4. Avon B (Ryan Jezek, Gautham Kumar, Udayan Chidambaram, Antonio Arias-Camison) 1:50.52, 5. Rocky Hill 1:55.06, 6. Newington B 1:57.87 (B teams don’t earn points in relays)
200 yard freestyle: Ved Bathula, Rocky Hill, 1:54.06, 2. Michael Bohlke, Newington 1:56.92, 3. Kubn Latawiec Newington 1:57.47, 4. Austin Roney EOS/Tolland 1:58.03, 5. Oliver Akers, Avon 1:58.20, 6. William Lubas, Newington, 1:58.27
200 yard IM: Owen Vale, Avon, 2:07.73, Flip Nadratowski, Newington, 2:15.68, 3. Tanner Bradbury, Wethersfield 2:16.00, 4. Anthony Song, EOS/Tolland 2:17.05, 5. Ethan Rychling EOS/Tolland 2:20.55, 6. Anduei Xhelaj, Wethersfield 2:21.97
50 free: Anderson Scigliano, EOS/Tolland 23.27, 2. Alexander Gauthier, Avon 23.71, 3. Zachary Crevier, Wethersfield, 24.35, 4. Anton Arias-Camison, Avon 24.54, 5. Jesse Gasek, Rocky Hill 24.60, 6. Jack Kulpa, Wethersfield 24.61
Diving (Avon scores only): 1. Sarah Grady, Avon 257.05, 3. Gabrielle Fisher, Avon, 170.30, 5. Lauren Frey, Avon, 164.35
100 fly: Anthony Song, EOS/Tolland 59.84, 2. Oliver Akers, Avon, 59.88, 3. Jesse Gasek, Rocky Hill 1:00.30, 4. Tanner Bradbury, Wethersfield, 1:02.48, 5. Ethan Rychling, EOS/Tolland 1:02.68, 6. Wyatt Smith, Newington 1:03.37
100 free: Anderson Scigilano, EOS/Tolland 52.04, 2. Antonio Arias-Camison, Avon, 53.60, William Lubas, Newington, 53.98, 4. Jack Lynch, Wethersfield, 54.79, 5. Jack Kulpa, Wethersfield, 54.96, 6. Bryce Turner, Newington 55.98
500 free: Rhys Vale, Avon 4:57.70, 2. Mason Wilde, EOS/Tolland 5:06.1, 3. Michael Bohlke, Newington, 5:15.46, 4. Colin Pace, Wethersfield 5:24.49, 5. Owen Powers, Wethersfield, 5:31.78, 6. Arjun Padwal, Avon, 5:46.73
200 free relay: EO Smith/Tolland (Anderson Scigliano, Arrington Scigliano, Ethan Rychling, Mason Wilde) 1:13.86, 2. Wethersfield 1:38.26, 3. Avon (Antonio Arias-Camison, Rhys Vale, Oliver Akers, Alexander Gauthier) 1:39.11, 4. Newington 1:39.60, 5. Rocky Hill 1L47.43, 6. Wethersfield B 1:48.71
100 backstroke: Ved Bathula, Rocky Hill 57.80, 2. Rhys Vale, Avon 58.54, 3. Austin Roney, EOS/Tolland 58.92, 4. Flip Nadratowski, Newington, 1:01.78, 5. Wyatt Smith, Newington 1:02.14, 6. (Udayan Chidambaram, Avon, 1:03.30
100 breast stroke: Mason Wilde, EOS/Tolland 1:01.42, 2. Alexander Gauthier, Avon 1:03.34, 3. Owen Vale, Avon, 1:07.02, 4. Bryce Turner, Newington 1:07.80, 5. Gautham Kumar, Avon, 1:08.31, 6. Jake D’Amato, Newington, 1:10.74
400 freestyle relay: Newington (Latawiec, Bohlke, Lubas, Nadratowski) 3:34.58, 2. Wethersfield 3:38.02, 3. EOS/Tolland 3:39.28, 4. Avon (Udayan Chidambaram, Ryan Jezek, Gautham Kumar, Owen Vale) 3:49.38, 5. Wethersfield B 3:52.27, 6. Rocky Hill 3:56.57

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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