Shepaug eyes winning back BL swim title. Story by John Torsiello.
The Shepaug swim team is hard at work, looking to get back to the top spot in the Berkshire League. Head coach Todd Dyer (m) is surrounded by two of his best, Colin Decker (L) and Freddie Pitcher (R). John Torsiello has the story.
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
Shepaug High School swim coach Todd Dyer sat and watched his charges go through their paces during a recent practice at the school’s pool in Washington.
“This is one of the best group of kids and swimmers I have ever had,” says the veteran mentor, “and that is saying something because I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years.”
Indeed, this is a talented Spartan team, one that has won its first seven meets of the season overall and first four in the Berkshire League. Shepaug has some nice out of league wins over Holy Cross, Avon, and perennial state Class S and Naugatuck Valley League contender Sacred Heart.
“The Sacred Heart meet was a great one,” says Dyer. “It came down to the last meet and we went 1-2 on them and just clipped them.”
The victory was indeed impressive because Shepaug hopes to perhaps sneak into the discussion for top honors in Class S this season, although Weston is one of the strongest programs in the state.
“I’m hoping top five again (fifth last year), maybe top three and maybe we can push Weston,” says Dyer.
The Berkshire League is certainly locked in on the radar as the Spartans seek to take back what was for so long their birthright. Shepaug has won over two dozen BL titles and had a run of 10 in a row before finishing third two years ago when Dyer took a year off and second last year upon his return.
“That’s one of our top goals and a very motivating factor this year,” says Dyer of the BL title. “Northwestern (defending champ) is very strong and deep, which means they will be tough to beat at the BL Championships where we score a number of places. We have to win both dual meets, I think, to finish first and I’m sure they are thinking the same thing.”
The two teams clash on Jan. 25 at the Winsted YMCA pool and Dyer went so far as to predict that the winner of the meet may well have won the BL title that night.
”That’s the way we are approaching the meet and I’m sure Northwestern is doing the same thing.”
Shepaug has some wonderful individual talent to make a run at recapturing the BL. Three of the team’s captains, seniors Freddie Pitcher (backstroke, freestyles), Nathan Ong (sprint frees) and Clara Wolfe (distance frees), were All-BL a year ago. Senior Kim Valentine, a breaststroker, is the team’s fourth captain.
Colin Decker exploded onto the scene last year, earning Most Valuable Performer honors at the league meet and capturing All-State honors. He is a top butterflier and sprint freestyler whom Dyer says may be one of the best swimmers to come through the school when he is all done in two years.
“Colin has his eyes set on breaking records this season,” says the coach. He’s clocked a 54.9 in the butterfly, with the school record 54:41. And he has swam a blistering 49.03 in the 100-freestyle. He also swam a 22.82 in the 50-free at the meet with Sacred Heart.
Other top competitors include senior Dakota Wilson in the distance frees, junior Ray Cook in the sprint frees, senior Mairead Rosa in diving, junior Clayton Firmender in the butterfly and sprint frees, senior Ken Buell in the backstroke and IM, sophomore Danny Ong in the freestyle events, senior Dave Geyer in the breaststroke, and freshman Austin Dutcher in the sprint frees.
Two of the team’s top swimmers talked about the season and their goals.
“I was a freshman when we won our 10th straight Berkshire League title and it hurt when we finished third and the second the next two years,” said Pitcher. “We are working very hard this year and we have a lot of intensity because we want to get back the league title. It’s great to have Mr. Dyer back because he works us hard in practice and keeps us focused.”
Said Decker, a year-round swimmer who competes in the off-season with the Brookfield YMCA Makos, “We are all on the same page as to what our goals are. You can see it in the pool every day and every meet.”
As for personal goals, Decker said, ‘I definitely want to break a few this season and I think I can do it. I’m close.”
Added Pitcher, “I’d like to get the backstroke record. I’m two seconds off of it and it’s within reach. We also want to break a few relay records as well. We’re thinking this is the year of breaking records.”
And if that happens, Shepaug will be one very difficult team to beat no matter who the Spartans line up against in the pool.