BL swim showdown at Shepaug Wednesday Night. Story by John Torsiello.
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
In what could be the decisive Berkshire League swim meet of the year, the defending champion Northwestern Highlanders travel to Washington to take on second place Shepaug Wednesday afternoon at 5 p.m. in a crucial showdown between the league’s two powers.
The Highlanders got a leg up on the BL race when they beat the Spartans, 98-74, in the two team’s first meeting at the Winsted YMCA in late January.
If Northwestern can win the rematch it will make it very difficult for the Spartans to overtake Regional 7 at the Berkshire League Championships, scheduled for the Hotchkiss school pool Mar. 8. A team gets a point for every team it beats during the regular dual meet schedule and a point for every team it finishes ahead of at the BL meet. So, if Northwestern beats Shepaug a second time and the two teams finish out the rest of their BL schedule without a loss, Northwestern will have to finish no worse than second at the BL Championships, probably a given considering how deep the Highlanders are and how much depth plays a role in deciding the winner of the league meet.
Prior to the first meeting of the two teams, Shepaug head coach Todd Dyer knew the dual meets would be key to who wins the BL title this season.
“Northwestern 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.”
At no time was Northwestern’s superior depth more evident than at last year’s BL Championships. The Highlanders took home their first BL title since 1997, scoring 470 points to runner-up Shepaug’s 433.5. While Shepaug won seven events, Northwestern piled up points with seconds, thirds, fourths and down the line to 12th, the last scoring position. The only Highlander win was notched by Barrett Langendoerfer, who turned in a great effort in the backstroke.
Northwestern will bring an 8-0 league mark and 10-0 overall record into the meet with Shepaug, while the Spartans have lost only once in the league.
Northwestern had superb meet when the two teams met in Winsted. The Highlanders set two school records at the meet, with the 200-meter medley team of Barrett Langendoerfer, Christian Royer, Nate Cunnigham and Brandeb Feyer recording a time of 1:58:90 that smashed the previous event mark. The second record fell in the 20—meter freestyle relay with Rickie Traub, Peter Kamianowski, Kiley Stotler and Frey posting a 1:50:23 to easily establish a new mark.
Royer clinched the first meet against Shepaug, which has two dozen BL titles and certainly won’t go down without a fight at home Wednesday, in the next-to-the-last event of the meet, the breaststroke.
“Our team has a great group of swimmers and they are very hard working,” said Northwestern head coach Mary DiMauro, who has been with the Highlanders since the 2006-07 season, serving as head coach the last five seasons. “They are willing to put in extra time and they support each other. We are like one big family. Northwestern has always been a good program and had very good swimmers in the past. This year, we have a talented groups of kids and a lot who really want to swim.”
Northwestern has been among the top two or three teams in the BL for a number of years but it has been only recently that the Highlanders have been able to overtake Shepaug. DiMauro said Northwestern’s athletes are willing to put in the work to be the best.
“Many of our swimmers swim year round for the Y team and also do other sports to stay in shape. The one thing we need to do to finish the season strong is to be able to have practices. The snow has limited our ability to have consistent practice time. It is hard when you do not have your own pool, but we make the best of it.”
While depth is Northwestern’s strong suit, the Highlanders do feature a number of outstanding swimmers. Kiley Stotler was the highest point scorer last year at the league meet and swims the IM, breaststroke, 200-meter medley relay and 400-meter freestyle relay. Langendoerfer, as noted above, is the defending BL champ in backstroke and also swims the 100-meter freestyle, medley relay and 400-free relay.
Other top competitors include Rachael Pulica (backstroke, 100-free, medley and 400-free relay), Olivia Morris (butterfly IM, medley and 400-free relay), Casey Stotler (50- and 100-meter freestyles, medley and 400-free relay), Cunningham (IM, butterfly, medley and 400-free relay), Frey (50-free, breaststroke, medley and 200-free relay), Royer (100-free, breaststroke, medley and 400-free relay), Kamianowski (200- and 500-free, 200- and 400-free relay), Traub (50- and 100-free, 200- and 400-free relay, Alec Royer (50- and 100-free, 200- and 400-free relay), and divers Lauren Parente and Victoria Masucci. Jason DiMauro, Pat Cunningham and Mike Michaud (diving) serve as the team’s assistant coaches.
“My assistants are great and it is a team effort,” said Mary DiMauro, “The team is real focused and they enjoy spending time together. They help each other out and are always willing to do anything for the team.”
The Highlanders will swim against Torrington Friday night, and Northwestern’s girls will take part in the Splash Classic Saturday. The team returns to action next week with meets against Lewis Mills and Gilbert.