The Shelton High girls swim team heads into today’s SCC championship meet at Southern Connecticut State University with a full head of steam after ripping off six straight wins in October.
The Gaelettes may not pose a threat to Cheshire, winners of 18 of the last 19 league titles, or defending champion Amity from Woodbridge but Shelton will be a team to be reckoned with and possibly break into the top ten as it did in 2011.
Shelton concluded the regular season against Pomperaug High of Southbury, a four-time South-West Conference champion and last year’s Class M state champion Pomperaug. The loss put an end to a sterling six-meet winning streak, but did little to damper the enthusiasm that has the Gaelettes believing in themselves.
“We got off to a bit of a slow start this season,” said Shelton head coach Tom Jurzynski. “There was an adjustment period getting used to a new coach and we had a difficult early schedule to go along with some illnesses and injuries that left us short handed.”
One thing Shelton does have on its side is a senior core of girls that were determined to turn things around after back-to-back 13th-place finishes in the SCC.
The Gaelettes returned three-time All-SCC swimmer senior Jessica Poole to lead the way, along with Katherine Funes, Daria Kraszewska, Maria Sakr, Natalie Sussan and Shae and Skye Zalenski.
“Once we got most of the team healthy and back in the pool we started to click,” said Jurzynski. “Jessica is a three-time all-league swimmer and she was out for a bit this year with mono. Now that she is back and working to get back to where she was last year, we are a stronger team.”
Shelton has struggled with numbers the last few years, but this year’s squad not only has depth but its versatility gives the Gaelettes a fighting chance in every event.
Juniors Tiffany Wronski and Juliane Shriver, along with Abigail Hundt and Heather Keith, have provided some of that depth and the experience to go with it.
Shelton showed the kind of determination when it overcame the slow start and battled St. Joseph to an 85-85 tie. That is when they realized that there was some fight in this team.
“Honestly, I’m still kicking myself over that meet,” Jurzynski said. “Knowing that I could have done some different things with our lineup still gets to me. But it was a tight meet throughout, never more than a six-point gap the whole way and the girls showed that they were ready to rise to the occasion.”
Shelton posted with a hair raising 86-84 win over Hamden at the start of October. It was the first meet back for Poole and her victory in the 100 breaststroke and a third-place from sophomore Pam Zuckerman put Shelton on top.
The Gaelettes went into the final event trying to hold on as pandemonium broke out along the pool deck.
But a group of young swimmers showed their poise and a seasoned veteran led the way by winning the 400 relay to secure the two-point victory.
Freshman Caitlin McGuire, sophomore Kaitlyn Barber, sophomore Jade Serrano and Poole glided to victory in a time of 4:07 and that proved to be the turning point of the season.
“That was our fastest relay time of the season and since that day we haven’t looked back,” Jurzynski said.
The Gaelettes began to put meets into the win column. Sophomores Anna Curran, Olivia Puleo and Emily Garzon, along with freshman Neha Swamy, Marcella Hundt, Sabrina Hudson and Deloshene Sittambalam, added to the new found youth movement that helped Shelton break the .500 mark.
In a 100-70 win over Jonathan Law from Milford, Poole led the way to victory winning two events with a first place in the 200 freestyle at 2:11.51 and a first place in the 100 freestyle at 1:01.69.
Barber swam to victory in the 100 butterfly at 1:13.06 and Zuckerman was victorious in the 100 breaststroke at 1:26.03.
The depth of the Gaelettes stepped forward with a first- and second-place finish in the 200 freestyle relay with the foursome of McGuire, Barber, Marcella Hundt and Wronski winning in a time of 1:58.25 and the squad of Puleo, Poole, Zuckerman and Serrano taking second.
In the 400 relay, Shelton closed the deal with a second- and third-place finish as Marcella Hundt, Barber, Puleo and McGuire finishing just ahead of Abby Hundt, Shriver, Swamy and Curran.
Shelton showed its versatility with a convincing win over West Haven by a 104-74 margin with five swimmers racing to victory.
Poole was a double winner in the 100 butterfly and the 100 breaststroke, Barber won the 200 freestyle, Serrano was first in the 100 freestyle, Zuckerman powered to victory in the 500 freestyle and McGuire took the 100 backstroke.
“Our sophomore and freshman class have been really impressive,” said Jurzynski. “Barber has been our top distance swimmer the entire season. Both Serrano and Marcella Hundt have really given us some big swims. Zuckerman and Puleo have really stepped up and have given us some great performances in the relays.
“We are looking at a top ten finish in both the SCC and the Class LL meets. We are still a very young team and I feel the best is yet to come for this group.”