THS swim program builds for the future. Big meet tonight at the Torrington Y.
By John Torsiello
Torrington High boys swimming and diving mentor Andrew Marchand must have thought this coaching gig was going to be so easy after his first two teams won Naugatuck Valley League titles in 2005 and 2006. But it’s been 11 years since the Raiders hoisted an NVL championship banner, although THS has remained one of the top programs in the league.
“We had some phenomenal swimmers those first two years,” said Marchand, as he watched his squad go through its paces at practice this week at the Torrington YMCA pool. “It was great winning the NVL my first two years as head coach, and we have had some top competitors, like Eric Traub and Ray Cswerko, in recent years. But we haven’t been able to win another.”
By the way, Traub at Columba University and Cswerko at Southern Connecticut State University went on to enjoy stellar collegiate careers.
Marchand, who himself was an accomplished swimmer at THS and went on to compete four years for Division I St. Bonaventure University, believes that with hard work, off-season dedication and training, and the good fortune of bringing in and nurturing a half dozen to eight standout swimmers the Raiders can get back to the top in the NVL.
This year, Torrington is standing at 5-3 going into a home meet against Sacred Heart Friday night at the YMCA. A Senior Night observance kicks things off at 6:45 p.m. followed by the meet at 7:30 p.m.
“It’s going to be a close meet and we would love to have a packed house there to cheer the kids on,” said Marchand. “Sacred Heart and us have gone back and forth the last few years and it would be nice to get them this year.”
Torrington has wins over Wilby, Woodland, Kennedy, Crosby and Watertown, while losing to Naugatuck, Seymour and Holy Cross.
“The win over Watertown (95-73) was a nice victory,” said Marchand. “But we weren’t close to Holy Cross and Naugatuck and that was to be expected. They are the two best teams in the NVL this year.”
The coach gave an analysis of his team.
“We have 29 swimmers and one diver (Elizabeth Lot) and 30 is a pretty good number for us. We have a lot of sophomores who I’m excited to see where they will be in two years if they work hard and do some off-season training. We only have about a half dozen kids who swim year-round, so that puts us at a disadvantage against some programs.”
Torrington is also hurt by not having the pool time that other programs enjoy. “We had only 16 practices during January and we can get into the pool only four days a week, weather permitting. Our diver only has two days a week in the pool. But that is something we understand and deal with.”
Marchand said he has received “good leadership” this year from his upperclassmen, notably senior co-captains J.T. Barth and Curtis Ledda. Both are versatile swimmers who will swim pretty much any event their coach asks them to compete in.
The Raiders have also received points from a couple of those talented sophomores Marchand referenced, Viktor Nemesvari and Jackson Keller. Nemesvari has posted some very fast times, at times rivaling the best in the NVL this season, in the sprint freestyle events. Keller competes in the butterfly and 500-freestyle and has also put up some very good times. Senior Mike Galan has done nice things in the 50-free. The Torrington relay teams are made up primarily of the above-mentioned swimmers, with a few other competitors added when needed.
As for the NVL Championships, Marchand is both realistic and optimistic about his team’s chances.
“I think we can finish fourth and maybe third if everything falls right. We need some guys to really swim their best at the meet.” Torrington has finished third the past two years at the NVL’s.
The NVL swim trials will be held Feb. 28 and the finals March 3, both at Kennedy High School pool.
Marchand is assisted by first-year coach Mike Hodge, who competed for the Raiders last year. Katie Sterpka works with diver Kot.
Prior to the NVL’s Torrington swims at Oxford Feb. 8 and has a non-league meet against Berkshire League powerhouse Northwestern at the Winsted YMCA pool on Feb. 10.