By, JOHN TORSIELLO
The Torrington High School swim team’s leadership this season was provided by a veteran core of seniors, just what head coach Brian Arnold figured his upperclassmen would do for the squad’s younger swimmers.
“I had a feeling our seniors would do a good job of setting the tone and exampling the type of culture we look for on the team, and they did,” Arnold said. “They worked hard at practice, they brought intensity and pride to our meets, and they were great student-athletes in the classroom. These are the principles that we stress in our program and I think the seniors did a great job at living up to those expectations, as well as leading the team in the pool.”
The Raiders finished with a dual meet record at 4-6 this season, which was below expectations for the program but an improvement from the last few seasons. “Overall, we did pretty well at NVL Finals,” said Arnold “The State Trials and State Finals was where we saw a lot of times drop in individual events and relays, which led to personal bests for a number of swimmers.”
Torrington had three senior tri-captains this season; Marco D’Addona, Alec Dzurnak, and Mark Crowe. In addition to them, THS also got strong performances from seniors Zach Murelli and Casey Barrera, junior Scott Jaskelewicz, sophomore Thomas Crowe, and freshman Daniel Smith. “These swimmers were the core of our team, and many of them were the top swimmer for THS in their respective events and relays,” said Arnold. This past season was Arnold’s fifth year coaching the team after taking over for Andrew Marchand in the 2018-19 season.
“This was a very close-knit team,” Arnold explained. “Again, the seniors did a great job of taking the freshmen and other underclassmen under their wings and showing them the ropes. They regularly go out to breakfast at George’s Restaurant in Torrington after Saturday morning practice, which is a team tradition. We had a few pizza parties after meets, and if the weather was nice we would even play football out on the turf after a tough dry land workout. I think the boys had a lot of fun and certainly grew closer with each other over the course of the season, as well as bonding over the tough moments they shared during pool and dry land practice.”
Luan Xavier joined the team as a senior this year, and excelled in his first season. Said Arnold, “He picked it up quick and had some solid times for a first-year swimmer. I wish he had joined as a freshman. Mark and Tommy Crowe also impressed me; they trained in the pre-season on the YMCA Lasers team and had some really impressive drops in time down the stretch; Tommy in the 500 free, and Mark in the 50 free and 500 free. Mark had great swims at the State Finals. Freshman Danny Smith came in with some prior swim experience and picked back up where he left off, eventually making it to State Finals on the 200 freestyle relay.”
Torrington improved as the season progressed, said Arnold. “One of the most rewarding things about swimming is seeing your time come down, especially in the context of how hard you work at practice. Everyone was consistently dropping time in their events as the season went on, and we had some really big drops at NVL’s and States. Even in dual meets that we lost, the boys continued to drop time and gain experience in their events, which really helped them prepare for NVL Finals and States. More importantly, it showed them that the work they were putting in during practice was paying off.”
Without question, as Arnold observed, THS’s biggest dual meet win was a victory over Naugatuck in early January. Torrington had not beaten Naugatuck in a dual meet in nine years. It was a back and forth meet that came down to the final event, the 400 freestyle relay, made up of Jackselewicz, D’Addona, Thomas Crowe and Dzurnak. “We had a packed crowd that night and they were loud,” said Arnold. “It had a great NVL dual meet atmosphere.”
Arnold continued, “We talked all week leading up to the meet about how important it was to have everyone do their part, and the only way we could win was if it was a full team effort. The boys had incredible swims throughout the entire meet and battled with Naugy to the final event to secure the win. Torrington and Naugatuck have always had great battles in the pool, including a few that I was a part of when I swam for THS from 2008 to 2012. But I had never beaten them before as a swimmer, so getting that first victory over our biggest rival was especially rewarding.”
Torrington graduates eight seniors, many of whom made up the core of this year’s team. “Next year will be a rebuilding and growth year,” said Arnold, “but we’ll be led by three senior captains in Jaskelewicz, Nic Borja-Garzon, and Kaleb Kesl. We have a number of underclassmen who can and will step up to replace our outgoing class, and I’m excited to see what they can do come next year.”