LANE 4 — From early on this season, it was clear area boys swim teams would be consistently led by a core group.
Cheshire had its senior Big 3. Sheehan had its young guns.
Meriden had Mehdi Moumen and its fleet of freestylers. Lyman Hall had the Lagamao brothers.
Southington, deepest of all, had a Fantastic Five, and with coach Evan Tuttle skillfully mixing and matching his relays, the Blue Knights put together a 9-1-1 season that culminated with the team title at the CCC West divisional meet.
But which swimmer in the R-J coverage area was best of all? Long ran the list of qualifiers for the CIAC class meets.
Eventually, eight swimmers, three divers and five relays from Meriden, Southington, Wallingford and Cheshire earned a berth in the State Open at Yale.
There, the question of No. 1 was definitively answered. Emerging atop the local podium was Southington senior Matt Niro.
Niro made All-State in not just one event, but two: the 100-yard butterfly and the 100-yard backstroke. He placed second in both events in Class LL, advanced to the State Open in each and finished third in the fly and fourth in the back.
Along the way, Niro broke Landon Colby’s 2022 school record in the butterfly and tied Jimmy Bianco's SHS backstroke record from 1992.
That was at the Class LL meet. Two days later, at the Open, Niro lowered his times in both events and made the records all his: 50.14 in the butterfly, 51.70 in the backstroke.
Good day, sir, and good Knight.
Niro also swam on two record-setting relays in the state meets. All this in a span of three days.
So, after three months, we had our answer: Matt Niro is the 2023Record-Journal Boys Swimmer of the Year.
He does have plenty of company on the All-Record-Journal Team, starting with his mates on the 200 medley and 200 free relays, juniors Peter Zalewski and Mathew Siwek.
The trio worked in combination with senior Boden Tito on the 200 medley and with junior Alex LeClair on the 200 freestyle.
Each relay placed fourth in Class LL and ninth at the Open. Each relay set school records: 1:38.60 in the freestyle (Class LL); 1:29 flat in the medley (State Open).
Like Niro, Peter Zalewski’s name will be on two individual lines on the record board at the Southington YMCA.
After breaking Colby’s team record in the 200 IM with a second-place time of 1:58.51 at the CCC West meet, Zalewski shifted to the distance freestyles for states and put up a 4:42.47 in the Class LL 500 to eclipse a SHS mark that had stood since 1998.
It was set by Matt Crispino, who went on to swim (and coach) at William & Mary and is now head coach at Princeton.
Fine footsteps in which to follow. Zalewski wound up fifth in the 500 and ninth in the 200 in Class LL, advancing to the Open in each.
While Zalewski was going the distance, Mathew Siwek was handling the sprints. He was fourth in the 50 and sixth in the 100 in Class LL, easily qualifying for the Open in each.
Siwek’s Class LL times of 21.96 in the 50 and 48.23 in the 100 were the area’s best this season in those events.
There is one last school record to talk about before we leave Southington, and that’s in diving. Alex Rosania, a four-year standout, signed off with fifth-place showings in both Class LL and at the State Open. He broke his own 11-dive mark with a 479.95 at Yale on Friday night.
Joining Rosania at the Open were fellow SHS senior divers Nico Smith (344.50) and Justin Vaillancourt (327.15). They are All-RJ Honorable Mention along with Boden Tito and Alex LeClair.
There are two Honorable Mentions from Wallingford: Lyman Hall senior Kenny Lagamao and Sheehan sophomore Jonathan Rosano.
Lagamao was a frequent double-winner for LH in dual meets and ultimately placed 14th in Class M in both the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM.
Rosano was Sheehan’s leading swimmer, start to finish. He won his Class S consolation heat in the 500 freestyle and was runner-up in the 200 free consie on the same afternoon.
The top swimmer at the Wallingford schools? Hands down, Jerick Lagamao.
The Lyman Hall junior was on the short list of R-J Swimmer of the Year finalists after winning the SCC conference title in the 100 backstroke with a school-record time of 53.06 and then breaking the LH mark in the 100 butterfly with a 51.95 at Class M.
Actually, Lagamao will go into his senior season holding a third individual LH record: 1:57.19 in the 200 IM, which he posted placing third in the SCC. It was also the area’s best IM time this season.
In his signature events, Lagamao was second in Class M in the backstroke and third in the butterfly. He advanced to the Open in each, easily made the All-RJ grade and will be among the leading area returners next year along with Southington’s Zalewski, Siwek and LeClair.
Cheshire, meanwhile, will turn a major page. The Rams are bidding farewell to seniors Alex Fang, Silas Wang and Kristian Adlianitski.
Fang, Wang & Adlianitski: If it sounds like a law firm, it should. All three partners had Top 4 finishes in the SCC and in Class M. All three qualified for the State Open, individually and in tandem on the 200 freestyle relay.
And all three are All-Record-Journal.
Adlianitski was a double-Open qualifier after placing second in the 100 freestyle (49.16) and seventh in the 100 breaststroke (1:01.17) in Class M.
At that same meet, Wang was third in the breaststroke with an area season-best time of 1:00.56 and Fang was third in the 100 free at 49.32.
Along with Adlianitski, they teamed with senior Zackary Schnitzer for Class M bronze in the 200 free relay (1:30.90).
Meriden Co-op mates Mehdi Moumen, Andrew Bellemare, John Peralta and Troy Ducas also made state waves (and All-RJ) in the 200 free relay as well as in the 400. In Class LL, they combined for sixth in the 400 (3:23.13) and eighth in the 200 (1:32.14).
Advancing to the State Open, the group lowered its times in each event to 3:22.33 in the 400 and 1:31.66 in the 200.
Bellemare and Peralta, both juniors, will be back. So will Ducas, who is only a sophomore.
The big loss will be Moumen. A standout since his freshman year, Moumen was virtually an automatic double-winner in dual meets and a sure-fire leadoff leg on the relays.
He signed off on his senior season placing 11th in the butterfly (54.65) and 12th in the IM (2:01.04) in Class LL. He went to the Open in the IM and posted a 2:00.75 in his final individual high school swim.