Some teams have that wildcard — the clutch player off the bench, the last-second play they pull out of proverbial hat, for example — that can lead to overcoming rivals in close contests.
For Newtown High School’s girls’ swimming and diving team, the divers are that potential wildcard this fall.
“We have a really, really strong diving program this year. I think we’re going to go toe to toe with any diving team in the whole state and I think it’s really going to hopefully put us over the top this year,” said Zach Gauvin, head swim coach at NHS.
The Nighthawks lost a lot of talent from last year’s swimming lineup because of graduation — ten seniors, among them four state qualifiers — but Gauvin expects the returnees to step up into more prominent roles and for the team to continue to be among the top few in the South-West Conference. Newtown was third in the SWC, and ninth in the Class LL state championships last fall.
“We always strive to be one of the elite teams in the SWC. We always try to get that top-three spot on the podium, if you will,” Gauvin said. “I think we’re looking for more of the same.”
Depth and skill in diving can go a long way since some teams don’t have diving programs, and other forfeit some potential points because they don’t have enough divers. The team is led by senior captains: spring freestyler Charlotte Gray, breaststroker Ellen Atkinson, and diver Noelle Benson.
“I’m excited to see how we’re going to do. It’ll be very competitive within the team; it’ll be a fun season,” Benson said.
“I’m super excited. I think we’re going to do amazing this season. We have a strong team bond,” Gray added.
Other team members whom Gauvin expects to be key include sprint freestyler Amy Martinelli, distance freestyle and butterfly specialist Megan McDonald, and diver Gillian Eckwall. Aside from diving, sprint freestyle is a strong point of this squad, the coach said.
Gauvin anticipates stiff competition from last year’s SWC champion, Brookfield, along with Weston and Lauralton Hall of Milford.
“I think it’s going to be a good season. I’m excited to be captain my senior year,” Atkinson said.