St. Joseph improving time against the best

St Joseph’s girls swim team left its visit to Shelton High at the Shelton Community Center on the short end of a 100-61 score on Monday. But the Cadets went home anything but empty-handed.

Not only did the Class S school squad tuck another meet of improved times and postseason qualifiers under its belt while competing against a Class LL school, but the locals also had a great overall experience in what was a reunion of sorts for coach Nick Blade and his swimmers alike.

“Some of my swimmers have been looking forward to this meet for a while,” Blade said.

Mackenzie Ceccarelli is one of them. Ceccarelli competed along with some of the Shelton competitors before high school, on the Valley YMCA team in Ansonia.

“It’s so great to see them again. I haven’t seen some of them in years,” Ceccarelli said.

Shelton coach Tom Jurzynski coached Blade during his club swimming days in Seymour, and girls on the St Joe’s squad were teammates with the Shelton swimmers during youth swimming.

“It’s fun to coach against him. He’s a great guy and a great coach. His teams are always prepared,” Blade said.

Blade and Jurzynski, in fact, also coach against each other in offseason club swimming.

“He’s done a good job,” Jurzynski said of Blade’s work with the Cadets. “They’re a lot more competitive this year and they’ve got a lot of young kids. They’re on their way up.”

The Cadets struggle against larger schools, which every opponent is in the FCIAC. But there is the personal challenge of bettering efforts in events in preparation for a more even playing field when the Class S state championships are held.

Four team members have qualified for states: Rebecca Cavanagh, Lindsay Giovannone, Gabby Saavedra and Ania Simoncek.

“Every week we’ve had best times across the board for the most part. We’re looking great going into postseason,” Blade said. “My girls work hard. They work hard every day.”

Against Shelton, highlights included Simoncek’s second-place finish in the 200 freestyle in a time of 2:17.70, as well as her runner-up result in the 500, clocking in at 6:13.56.

Cavanagh was second in the 100 backstroke in 1:14.39.

Saavedra had the second-fastest time in the 200 breaststroke, 1:21.30, only seven hundredths of a second behind the fastest time, posted by Shelton’s Olivia D’Addio.

St Joe’s had the second-fastest result in 400 free relay with Ceccarlli, Patricia Bendeck, Simoncek and Giavannone finishing in 4:43.09.

The 200 medley relay team of Ceccarelli, Saaverda, Cavanagh and Kimberly Wu was third in 2:15.43, only about second and a half off the time of Shelton’s second-place team.

Giovannone was third in the 200 free in 2:20.15.

Olivia Scully placed third in the 200 individual medley with a time of 2:41.24.

Wu came in third in the 500, posting a time of 6:17.31.