THS Girls Swimming Building for the Future. By John Torsiello.
The mood of the Torrington High girls swim team’s practice at the YMCA pool this week was buoyant, not an atmosphere one would expect would surround a team that had won only four meets this season.
But, wins and losses aren’t what this fall has been about for the Raiders. It’s all about beginning a rebuilding process under a new coach who hopes to bring the program back to the level of several years ago, when the THS girls won three straight Naugatuck Valley League titles (2008-2010).
Katie Gregory stepped away from the head coaching position to spend more time with her young daughter.
Enter new coach, Christine Harding, a former Division I mentor and Division II All-America, who has set about reconstructing the Raiders. She’s thrilled with what she has seen thus far.
“I love these girls, they have worked so hard and are excited about the future. We have a ton of freshman and sophomores, who I believe will be very good in the future if they put in the off-season work and commit themselves to the sport.”
Harding coached the Marist College (Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where she grew up) women’s swim and water polo teams for seven years, winning five conference titles during that time, She was a standout swimmer herself at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania, attaining All-America status in the backstroke. She has been a devoted student of the techniques of swimming and diving, and to have such a reservoir of knowledge at their beck and call is indeed a major plus for the Raiders.
“I left coaching originally because I just wasn’t making enough money,” said Harding, taking a break from practice, as her team prepared for the upcoming NVL Trials. “I went into pharmaceutical sales, but when I moved here (Litchfield) I was looking to get back into coaching. I saw the ad for this position and I applied. I was told I was overqualified, but I told them to ignore all that. I wanted the position. The support I have received from the school has been tremendous.”
Torrington has already tasted some modest success under Harding, posing wins over Holy Cross and Kennedy in dual meets.
“I did not have a lot of expectations for this season,” said Harding, who still competes in Masters Swim meets. “The girls didn’t have an off-season with me and I don’t think we were really ready to go when we began the season. But we are learning about one another and the improvement has been notable. I get half the team or more on voluntary swim days and we will have an off-season program in place, so we will come in stronger and ready to swim next year.”
“We have had to get used to a new coach and this season we knew would be about starting to rebuild the program,” said Co-captain Amanda Thiel, a senior. “But we have grown close as a team and we have a lot of good young girls coming up that the older girls have been working with and encouraging.”
Offered the team’s other co-captain, Victoria Masucci, “We graduated a lot of seniors from last year’s team and really we are almost an entirely new club. We had a couple of good wins, beating Holy Cross and Kennedy, who thought they were going to beat us, but we came out on top.”
In addition to Masucci and Thiel, other seniors on this year’s team are Emreen Bharara, Emily Fuentes, Mariah Herczeg, and Lauren Jamieson.
Over half the team’s roster is made up of freshmen and sophomores.
Among the top young swimmers are freshman Sydney Offerdahl, a freshman who swims “anything” said her coach, with her specialties the 200- and 500-freestyle events; Julia Keller, a sophomore, who swims the 200- and 500-freestyles, freshman Jasmine Robles, who swims the IM and butterfly; and freshman Riley Silva, who also dives in addition to swimming the freestyle events.
Harding, who is assisted by former Shepaug High School standout Travis Morse, said she hopes the Raiders can finish somewhere in the middle of the pack at the NVL Championships and qualify as any swimmers as possible for states. “We have pretty good depth, so I think we can score some points at the league meet.”
However the season concludes, the Raiders are already pointing to next year.
“Next season will be different,” said Harding. “As long as the girls commit themselves to working hard off-season we will be much better. I really am enjoying this job. It’s all about the kids and not me. I believe in working closely with them and showing them what it takes to improve. That’s why I’ll get the water and swim with them and run with them when we do our dry land training. We need to get more of the top swimmers at the junior level to come to Torrington High and that will only make us better in the coming years