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Torrington swim team battles the elements. (A story by guest writer, John Torsiello)

POSTED February 25, 2011
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney


@By, JOHN TORSIELLO

Even the most dedicated athletes enjoy a rest once in awhile. But a month?

That’s the situation the Torrington High swim team found itself in this winter as snow severely impacted the team’s conditioning and meet schedule.

“We missed a lot of time in the pool this season, right in the meat of our schedule,” said head coach Andrew Marchand, as he watched his team go through its paces during a recent practice at the Torrington Area YMCA. “We went exactly one month between meets and we missed practice time as well because of the weather. That’s time you don’t get back and there were several non-league meets that we didn’t get to make up.”

In addition, one league meet became a three-way meet, which robbed the Raiders of another night in the pool. The situation became so desperate that the Raiders actually arranged a meet among themselves to try and retain a modicum of competitive spirit.

“It was really tough,” said senior co-captain Murphy Jennings concerning the lack of pool time and meets. “It throws off your training and you don’t get to see your results and judge where you are.”

Fellow senior co-captain Ray Cswerko concurred.

“You don’t get to see where you stand compared to everyone else in the league.”

But, as Marchand pointed out, “Everybody was in the same boat this winter so we made the best of it.”

The Raiders, who won the Naugatuck Valley League title in 2005 and 2006 and finished among the top three teams pretty much every year since, have struggled a tad this season. The Raiders lost a number of key swimmers from last year’s club and have dropped meets to Naugatuck, Holy Cross and Watertown. They lost to unbeaten Scared Heart Wednesday night (Feb. 23) on their Senior Night but pushed the Hearts during the meet.

Junior Ryan Andrews won the IM and swam a leg on the victorious 200-medley relay team along with Cswerko, Brian Arnold and Jennings. Cswerko also won the 100-free and breaststroke, and the 400-free relay ream of Jennings, Arnold, Andrews and Cswerko won the 400-free relay.

“Sacred Heart and Naugatuck are very strong teams but we had chance to win the meets with Holy Cross and Watertown,” said Marchand, who is in his sixth year at the helm of the Raiders. He was a star at THS during the early 1990’s and went on to swim collegiately for St. Bonaventure. He is also an assistant with the three-time defending NVL champion THS girls team. “We are fourth in the league right now and I’m hoping we can move up to third at the league championship meet.”

He added, “We’re a little behind where I thought we would be, but this is a very hard working team and our intensity has been very good at practices.”

Cswerko is a two-time All-America and the defending NVL champion in the butterfly and 50-freestyle. He’s been swimming an assortment of events this year, including the IM, the butterfly and the breaststroke.

“He’s such a versatile swimmer,” said Marchand of his star.

Jennings usually competes in the 50-free, 100-free and butterfly and Marchand believes he has the potential to be among the top finishers at the league meet. Andrews, also figures in the top of the heap in the IM and breaststroke.

Other solid swimmers include Zach Goddard, who won the backstroke and finished second in a recent meet against Lewis Mills, Jack Weber, Arnold, Pat Shea and Chris Shea. Chris Shea won the 500-free in a meet with Naugy two weeks ago.

Said Cswerko, who plans on swimming at the University of Maryland in the fall, “We’re building up our endurance and hopefully we will end the season on a strong note.”

Added Jennings, “Our goal is to get third at the league meet. That’s what we’re working hard for.”

Torrington has 24 swimmers on its squad. Marchand would like to see more young swimmers coming into the program on a regular basis.

“We’re only gotten a few kids from the Northwest Y Lasers youth swim program. It seems like most of the kids in the program are from Winsted or New Hartford. There are a couple of kids on this year’s Lasers team that will help us next year.”

He has hopes for a program that his brother, Patrick, is running at the Connecticut Junior Republic pool for kids seven to 18, the Litchfield Area Swim Team.

“That could really help,” said Andrew. “I’d like to see middle school kids swimming and then joining the high school program in Torrington.”

For now, the Raiders will concern themselves with the NVL Trials next Tuesday as then the finals March 4, both at Waterbury’s Kennedy High School.

Marchand and his squad are also hoping it won’t snow anymore this winter. They have had enough down time for one season.

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