Girls swimming: Trumbull Eagles keeping pace

The Trumbull High girls swim team is overcoming adversity in the pool against an always tough FCIAC schedule.

Led by senior captains Victoria Batchelor and Samantha Werner, along with seniors Natalia Ignatov, Bridget Nusom and Delaney Walsh, the Eagles are 1-2 on the season under fourth year head coach Bill Strickland.

“We had some things to overcome early on,” Strickland said. “There were some pool issues and we had to have a few dry land practices. With time missed in the pool, it took us a little while to catch up and we saw that in our first meet against Norwalk.”

Norwalk pulled away to a 101-68 win over Trumbull in the season opener. But there were still quite a few bright spots for the Eagles. Junior Sophia Bragg took first in the 50 freestyle in a time of 25.74 and took second in the 100 butterfly at 1:03.38.

Delaney Walsh finished second in the 100 breaststroke at 1:15.35, with freshman Julia Nevins taking third at 1:19.26. Junior Nancie Zieglar landed two third-place finishes —  the 200 (2:10.61) and the 500 (5:51.79) freestyle.

The 400 relay squad of Zieglar and freshmen Ashleigh Piro, Regan Ryan and Mia Zajac took first in a time of 4:02.31. The foursome of sophomore Karina Walsh, freshman Anna Haydostian and seniors Delaney Walsh and Nusom finished second at 4:12.60.

The other obstacle the Eagles have had to deal with is that the diving board is broken at the Hillcrest pool. This has created an interesting challenge for junior diver Natalie Smerling and sophomore Cassie Gallace, along with freshman Katelyn Cerulli and Olivia Grecco.

“We have already dove against Greenwich, but won’t face them till later in the season and that is when the diving points will be added to the meet results,” said Strickland. “It’s an unusual situation, but the other teams in the league are working with us to make it happen and we are using the facility in Orange to practice.”

The Trumbull dive team took the top three spots against Danbury, with Gallace first with a score of 164.75. Grecco was second at 164.25 and Smerling was third at 155.40. The Eagles have already qualified half of their diving team for the states with Smerling diving to a second-place finish against Ridgefield scoring a 177.05. Grecco qualified with a third-place finish scoring a 165.25.

“We have talent all through our lineup,” Strickland said. “We have a strong group of experienced swimmers among our juniors and seniors. And the freshman and sophomores are really coming together quickly.”

Trumbull saw that progress in its first win of the season, when the Eagles took it to Danbury in a 94-44 victory. The Eagles swept the top three spots in four individual events and went first and second in two of the relays.

Karina Walsh led the way as a double-winner, taking first in the 200 (2:09.39) and 500 (5:51.63) freestyle. Werner was second in the 200 freestyle at 2:09.68, with Haydostian third at 2:18.30.

Junior Elisabeth Stankevitz was second in the 500 freestyle at 5:55.10. Sophomore Blake Asaro finished third.

The Eagles continued to swim past Danbury, with Zajac taking first in the 50 freestyle in 27.03 followed by Batchelor at 28.06 and Ignatov at 28.25.

In the 100 freestyle, Nevins was first in a time of 1:02.48, with Ignatov second at 1:02.79 and Batchelor third at 1:03.93.

In the 100 butterfly, junior Neha Rahalkar was first at 1:03.66 and Piro third at 1:06.25.

“The hard work is starting to pay off,” said Strickland. “The team is starting to come together quickly. It’s all about improving to get ready for the FCIAC championship meet. Our goal is to improve on last years ninth-place finish.”

Trumbull took a step in that direction on Wednesday when they stayed with 2-0 Wilton through the first seven events.The Eagles trailed 56-54 before Wilton pulled away in the final four events to pull out a 96-74 win.

“I’m proud of the way the girls competed,” Strickland said. “We have another tough meet coming up this week facing Ridgefield on Wednesday. It’s a great way to measure our progress against a tough team at our home pool.”

Trumbull has the depth to be competitive with juniors Gabriela Gomes, Caroline Johnson, Katie Merkle and Laura Velez Oses, adding to the mix of sophomores Karissa Delli Carpini, Anushka Gangwar, Soumya Ganti, Lauren Hough and Anna Ligouri along with freshman Grace Carravone, Sneha Kelkar, Darby Pethrick and Anushka Sharma.

Against Wilton, Karina Walsh took first in the 500 freestyle, with Ryan swimming to a first-place finish in the 100 freestyle and picking up a second in the 50 freestyle. Bragg added a first in the 100 butterfly and a third in the 50 freestyle. Prio was second in the 200 freestyle, with valuable points picked up by third-place finishers Ziegler (500 freestyle), Werner (100 backstroke), Stankevitz (100 freestyle) and Nevins (200 IM).