Darien swimming and diving tipped by New Canaan, 99-87

The excitement in the Darien YMCA pool area was at a fever pitch on Friday afternoon, and why not? It was, after all, the annual head-to-head showdown between the Darien Blue Wave boys swimming and diving team and the rival New Canaan Rams.
While the end result didn’t go the Wave’s way — New Canaan pulled out a 99-87 win in a thriller of a meet — Darien head coach Liz Blau had nothing but praise for her athletes.
“They get up for it automatically just because it is the rivalry,” the coach said. “We just have a long-term goal and they’re focused on that. They’re swimming hard, they’re swimming fast, they’re training harder than they’ve ever trained and they’re swimming harder in the season than they’ve ever swum before. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Darien now has nine meets in the books and is 6-2-1 — a record which includes an impressive 93-93 tie against perennial FCIAC favorite Greenwich. For New Canaan, the victory was easily biggest of the season, as the Rams (4-3) have had some ups and downs.
Friday’s competition was close throughout, as the teams were never separated by more than 12 points and the score was tied 78-78 with just the 100 breaststroke and the 400 freestyle relay remaining.
The Rams went 1-3-4 in the breaststroke to gain an 89-83 lead and all but clinch the meet victory.
New Canaan’s Peter Sloan, a senior, won in 1:00.57, and Darien’s John Barsanti, a sophomore, was second in 1:04.93. The Rams took the next two spots, with sophomore Bart Codd third (1:07.99) and freshman Strider Bennett (1:08.08), and Darien senior co-captain Alex Dehmal was fifth (1:08.21).
Trailing 89-83, Darien needed to take the top two spots in the 400 freestyle relay to forge a tie, but New Canaan’s team of senior co-captain Luke Stewart, and juniors Jackson Oehmler, Daniel Lu, and Jake Ritz secured the win by taking first place in 3:24.38.
Darien sophomore Connor Martin, junior Spencer Erickson, sophomore Conway Zhou, and senior co-captain Chris Zhang were second in 3:28.32, and New Canaan senior Alex Popov, junior Brian Harrell, sophomore Will Fannon, and junior Richard Ettinger were third in 3:33.05.
The meet was also Wave’s Senior Day, and Darien honored its nine seniors, including co-captains Dehmel, Zhang, Kevin Grune, Connor Henry, Brendan Ross and Owen Stevens, and Wiley Schmidt, Jackson Major and Peter McMaster.
“The seniors are awesome,” Blau said. “They’re captains; they’ve been really good with setting the tone, and they have a great work ethic. There’s good communication and there’s good rallying of the troops every single time.”
Each team won six of the 12 events, and each had six second-place finishes as well. The Rams really won the meet after that, with eight third-place showings to Darien’s four, and five fourth-place finishes to the Wave’s four.
New Canaan had two victories from Ritz, who took first place in the 200 freestyle (1:49.74) and the 500 freestyle (4:58.36). Stewart won the 200 individual medley (1:59.62), and Sloan won the 100 breaststroke.
The Rams also won the 200 freestyle relay as Stewart, Sloan, Oehmler and Ritz finished in 1:32.17.
For the Wave, Martin had a pair of victories, first winning the 50 freestyle (22.69) and then topping the first in the 100 butterfly (52.62). Zhang won the 100 freestyle (49.22), and Erickson won the 100 backstroke (55.76).
Darien also started the meet with a victory, as the 200 medley relay team of Erickson, Barsanti, Martin and junior Connor Zielinski took the top place in 1:42.17.
Schmidt and Stevens highlighted the diving for the Wave, with Schmidt winning with a score of 328.55, and Stevens, a co-captain, taking second at 320.70.
New Canaan’s George Moore was third (248.95), Jackson Camporin was fourth (243.48), and James Ragusa was fifth (241.75).
The diving performance broke a 31-31 tie and but the Blue Wave in front at 41-37, and Darien expanded that advantage to 61-49 after seven events.
Darien was particularly dominant in the 100 freestyle with three swimmers in the top four — an effort which gave the Wave an 11-5 advantage in the event and the 12-point lead overall. Zhang won that race, with New Canaan’s Popov second (52.33). Darien sophomore Nico Clark was third (52.39) and junior Nick Giotis was fourth (53.99).
The Rams made up a lot of ground in the 500 freestyle, as Oehmler followed Ritz’s win with a second-place finish in 5:02.95. Darien sophomore Pragun Sharma was third in 5:07.44, with Fannon fourth (5:12.41).
New Canaan closed the gap to 71-69 after the 200 freestyle relay, and tied it at 78-78 by going 2-3-4 in the 100 backstroke. Erickson won it for Darien, and he was followed by New Canaan’s Lu (57.32), Gianfranco Pozzolini (57.42), and Ettinger (57.76) in the next three spots.
The Rams then took their first lead of the afternoon in the 100 breaststroke, and secured the win in the final relay.
Going forward to the final weeks of the regular season and into the postseason beyond, competition like their showdown with New Canaan will only help the Wave.
“Every time we race in a meet, it’s like training,” Blau said. “It’s just good to get up and race when you’re tired and they are exhausted. For them to be swimming as fast as they are at this time of the season, I’m really proud of them.”
New Canaan 99, Darien 87
Friday, Feb. 2, at Darien YMCA
200 Medley Relay
1 – Darien (Spencer Erickson, John Barsanti, Connor Martin, Connor Zielinski), 1:42.17
2 – New Canaan (Daniel Lu, Peter Sloan, Richard Ettinger, Brian Harrell), 1:42.19
3 – Darien (Scotty Tuck, Nick Clark, Alex Dehmel, Matthew Freeman), 1:42.50
200 Freestyle
1 – Jake Ritz (NC), 1:48.74
2 – Chris Zhang (D), 1:49.49
3 – Jackson Oehmler (NC), 1:51.84
4 – Conway Zhou (D), 1:54.04
5 – Pragun Sharma (D), 1:55.39
6 – Will Fannon (NC), 2:01.21
200 Individual Medley
1 – Luke Stewart (NC), 1:59.62
2 – Spencer Erickson (D), 2:03.40
3 – Daniel Lu (NC), 2:07.81
4 – Scotty Tuck (D), 2:11.46
5 – Jack Stobbie (D), 2:13.30
6 – Bart Codd (NC), 2:14.62
50 Freestyle
1 – Connor Martin (D), 22.69
2 – Peter Sloan (NC), 23.03
3 – Brian Harrell (NC), 23.78
4 – Alex Popov (NC), 23.94
5 – Connor Zielinski (D), 24.08
6 – Matt Freeman (D), 24.11
Diving
1 – Wiley Schmidt (D), 328.55
2 – Owen Stevens (D), 320.70
3 – George Moore (NC), 248.95
4 – Jackson Camporin (NC), 243.48
5 – James Ragusa (NC), 241.75
6 – Jackson Major (D), 167.25
100 Butterfly
1 – Connor Martin (D), 52.62
2 – Luke Stewart (NC), 53.87
3 – Richard Ettinger (NC), 57.09
4 – Connor Zielinski (D), 57.94
5 – Harry Fitzpatrick (D), 59.27
6 – Michael Rivas (NC), 1:02.45
100 Freestyle
1 – Chris Zhang (D), 49.22
2 – Alex Popov (NC), 52.33
3 – Nico Clark (D), 52.39
4 – Nick Giotis (D), 53.99
5 – Gianfranco Pozzolini (NC), 55.95
500 Freestyle
1 – Jake Ritz (NC), 4:58.36
2 – Jackson Oehmler (NC), 5:02.95
3 – Pragun Sharma (D), 5:07.44
4 – Will Fannon (NC), 5:12.41
5 – Hayden Puff (D), 5:12.70
6 – Jack Stobbie (D), 5:19.83
200 Freestyle Relay
1 – New Canaan (Luke Stewart, Peter Sloan, Jackson Oehmler, Jake Ritz), 1:32.17
2 – Darien (Chris Zhang, Nico Clark, Connor Zielinski, Kevin Grune), 1:33.63
3 – Darien (Nick Giotis, Connor Henry, Alex Dehmel, Nolan Lovegrove), 1:38.10
100 Backstroke
1 – Spencer Erickson (D), 55.76
2 – Daniel Lu (NC), 57.32
3 – Grianfranco Pozzolini (NC), 57.42
4 – Richard Ettinger (NC), 57.76
5 – Conway Zhou (D), 58.41
6 – Scotty Tuck (D), 1:00.79
100 Breaststroke
1 – Peter Sloan (NC), 1:00.57
2 – John Barsanti (D), 1:04.93
3 – Bart Codd (NC), 1:07.99
4 – Strider Bennett (NC), 1:08.08
5 – Alex Dehmel (D), 1:08.21
6 – Nico Clark (D), 1:08.57
400 Freestyle Relay
1 – New Canaan (Luke Stewart, Jackson Oehmler, Daniel Lu, Jake Ritz), 3:24.38
2 – Darien (Connor Martin, Spencer Erickson, Conway Zhou, Chris Zhang), 3:28.32
3 – New Canaan (Alex Popov, Brian Harrell, Will Fannon, Richard Ettinger), 3:33.05
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Darien senior co-captain Chris Zhang competes in the 400 freestyle relay during Friday’s meet against New Canaan. — Dave Stewart photo

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