A Truly Magical Season in the Pool for Wamogo..By John Torsiello.
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
While Northwestern got the headlines by winning its first Berkshire League swim title since 1997, there was a fascinating understory to this month’s BL Championships held at Hotchkiss School’s fabulous aquatic center.
Long an after-thought in Berkshire League swimming, the Wamogo High School program emerged as a force to be reckoned with this season and established a name for itself with a third place finish. Two Warriors won individual events, school records were set, and there were smiles all around.
“This was a very special season for us,” said head coach Bill Houle. “We had a lot of new advances in the program; new school records, two first-time event winners at the Berkshire Championships, a third place finish at the Berkshire Championships, and two final eight finishes at the state level.”
But most of all, said Houle, was the common “feeling of team” that pervaded among this “team that could.”
“Being a small school and the fact that all programs at the school are competing for the same kids, our swim team worked together to allow those kids that had a need to be a part of the play or band or anything else to do those things. The team worked to keep them involved with the swim team and to help get them through their workouts.”
The results speak for themselves. At the BL’s the Warriors were led by two incredible swims, from senior Steven Rosko, who knocked more than a second off his personal best time in winning the 50-free in 23.97 seconds, and senior Sam Shurburg, who won the breaststroke in a time of 1:05.87, over three seconds ahead of runner-up Braden Frey of Northwestern. Both victories, school records, were considered by team coaches and league officials as the first ever by Wamogo swimmers at the league championship.
Wamogo went on to finish 14th at the state Class S meet. Rosko was eighth in the 50-free, the team of Rosko, Shurburg, Robert Whipple and Alex Brady eighth in the 400-medley relay, Victoria Cowdell ninth in diving, and Shurburg 10th in the breaststroke.
“I was really pumped up the whole week for the race,” said a smiling Rosko after winning his BL title. “I just went after it and I guess it was a little adrenaline kicking in that helped.”
Said Shurburg with a laugh, “I couldn’t let Steve be the only guy from Wamogo to win an event at the league meet.”
Houle has coached Wamogo for 10 years and has had experience coaching youth swimming. He also competed in the sport as a youngster and swam on local parks and recreation teams and AAU squads. Among Houle’s personal favorite moments this year, besides the aforementioned accomplishments, were moments less noticeable to the average observer.
“I would include moments like a swimmer who made a first flip turn at the league championships and the feeling of joy by all of the team at this accomplishment, or the completion of a swimmer’s first ever 100-yard butterfly, or the many goals that each of the team members set for themselves and reached.”
Houle realized he had an improved squad prior to the start of the 2012-13 campaign.
“I knew we were getting better each year but I wasn't sure what the final results were going to be. The kids bought into a program and believed in themselves and in me, and we reached the stars, if for only one year.”
The head coach said this year’s success and the improvement the team has shown is paying dividends.
“The success of the team is represented in the numbers of kids we have involved. When I first started, we had seven swimmers and now for the past few years we have been holding at 30. We are getting interest from first-year students to seniors coming out for their final year in school because their friends are enjoying the program and having success. It is also a more recognized sport now due to the enthusiasm the kids are bringing to the school.”
He added, “The interest has been growing just on the basis of the kids get from reaching their goals. The team success comes from that as well and we can only hope it will continue.”
Wamogo, which finished with a 10-6 dual meet record this year, has some talent back next year, although it loses Rosko and Shurburg to graduation.
Said Houle, “We will be competitive in our league, as we were this year, and we will see what goals the kids have and how they work towards them.”
Some of the Warriors’ top returnees should include Evan Dalke, Rob Whipple, Matt Brady, Jake Rosko, Charlotte Miller, Riley Loomis, Christopher Serafine, Robin Carlson, Brian Mansaku, Allie Cohen, and Bethany Edwards.
No longer will Wamogo be considered an easy victory by opponents. How far the Warriors go in the future will be determined by how hard the team works off-season and the level of talent the program attracts. But, as Houle said, for one year at least, Wamogo swimming has had its share of the limelight.