Boys swim: Coach and seniors responsible for turnaround
In the past four seasons, Shelton High’s boys swimming and diving program has seen significant improvement.
The improvements have come in the win-loss department, first-time triumphs over tough competition, school records set, conference championships and, this year — with all of that success under its belt — a bump up in conference divisions (two levels, no less, from Division III to I).
A big reason for all of these accomplishments has been the leadership of coach Tom Jurzynski, who is approaching the finish line of his fourth campaign with the squad, as well as the efforts of his five seniors.
“I ask a lot. They’re getting used to swimming hard in practice,” Jurzynski said.
Jurzynski, along with captains Hunter Wronski and Juan Carlo Rojo, and fellow seniors Brian Callinan, Sebastian Musante and Jack Piscitelli, all joined Shelton’s swim program at the same time and have worked to develop the Gaels into a force in the Southern Connecticut Conference.
“We’ve all grown so much. We’ve been improving every year,” said Musante, who swims the 500 and 100 yard freestyle events and is part of the 200 free relay. “Coach Tom has just been amazing. He’s helped us so much...
“We’re like a family. Coming to practice here is fun – we look forward to it.”
The Gaels had a record of 5-9 in Jurzynski’s first season and turned that around in a hurry, posting an 11-3 mark the following winter. Shelton again posted an 11-3 record the next campaign. Back-to-back SCC Division III titles in those 11-win seasons earned the Gaels not only trophies, but a move up to the SCC’s top division for this campaign.
“We’ve just been trying to get better every day and each year,” Jurzynski said. In the past couple of seasons, the Gaels have beaten Branford and Xavier of Middletown for the first time in the program’s history.
“From where we started to where we are now it’s been a good run,” said Callinan, who competes in the 50 and 100 freestyle events.
The run has included another winning season this winter.
“We have a lot of fun really,” said Rojo, who swims primarily the 100 backstroke and 200 IM.
Shelton carried an 8-4 overall mark into a Feb. 17 meet against Oxford.
“The team’s grown a lot,” adds Piscitelli, who races in the 50 yard and 100 yard freestyle events.
Jurzynski said, following Shelton’s 93-77 win over visiting Seymour on Feb. 3, that he was thrilled with the performances of his team members.
“Today was a big step forward for us. That’s the fastest I’ve ever seen us in a dual meet here in my four years,” the coach said. “They were fired up and ready to go.”
The 200 medley relay team of Marc Maleri, Wronski, Jack Marciano and Reid Chavez clocked in at 1:44.08, narrowly missing the school record time of 1:44.02. Wronski also put in stellar swims in the 200 freestyle (1:50.52) and 100 breaststroke (1:02.20) events. Chavez finished the 200 individual medley in 2:03.22, just off the school record, and was also solid in the 100 free.
The Gaels are looking to finish among the top 10 in the Class L State Championships — they were eighth two years ago and 10th last year — and be among the top 20 in the State Open. “It’s going to be tough competition at the state level,” Jurzynski said. “If we swim like we did today (Feb. 3) we’ll be in good shape.”
Challenging for an SCC DI title may not be so easy but the Gaels certainly are rising to the level of competition and not backing down.
“We’re hanging around with these guys,” Jurzynski said.
“It’s obviously tough competition but we’re still holding our own.”
This chapter of Shelton swim success is nearing a close. The seniors have one home meet left, Friday, Feb. 17, when Oxford visits at 4 for Senior Night.
“I’m going to miss them. They’ve meant a lot to the program. They’re the ones who helped get this program turned around in the right direction,” Jurzynski said.
Wronski, who is headed to Roger Williams to continue his swimming career, holds Shelton’s 100 breaststroke and 100 free records, and is part of the school’s top 400 free relay and 200 medley relay. What Wronski will miss most is the friendships that are established, including those outside of the team, with opposing coaches and swimmers.
“It’s a close community,” Wronski said.
Shelton High’s boys swimming team has had a successful run thanks in large part to coach Tom Jurzynski and his five seniors. Pictured are (l-r) captain Juan Carlo Rojo, captain Hunter Wronski, Jurzynski, Sebastian Musante, Brian Callinan and Jack Piscitelli.