25 CIAC girls swimmers and divers to watch and what to look for in 2022

Athletes to watch

Julia Barto, Cheshire, Junior: Barto was electric as a sophomore, helping the Rams’ 200 (1:37.31) and 400 (3:32.36) freestyle relays finish first during Cheshire’s runner-up finish in Class L. She was also second in the Class L 200 individual medley (2:04.06) and 100 backstroke (57.49).

Jade-Su Casey, Glastonbury, Junior: Casey was a top-five diver in both CIAC meets last fall, taking fourth place in Class LL (461.20) and fifth at the State Open (431.30).

Hannah Chuckas, Westhill/Stamford, Senior: The GameTimeCT All-State first team diver won the 2021 State Open championship with a score of 462.75. She was also the Class LL champion (469.25).

Alison Colburn, Conard, Senior: Colburn captured the Class L diving crown with a score of 460.05 before finishing seventh at the State Open.

Margaret Erickson, Darien, Senior: Erickson is part of a strong group of returning swimmers for the Blue Wave and will look to follow up a season in which she finished in the top five of four events at the Class L meet. She was part of two Wave relays, taking first in the 200 medley (1:47.57) and 400 freestyle (3:33.67), while also finishing third in the 500 freestyle (5:06.61).

Natalia Ferranto, Darien, Senior: Ferranto played a leading role in the Blue Wave’s Class L championship, striking gold in the 50 freestyle (24.03) and as the final swimmer in the 200 medley relay (1:47.57). She was also second with the 400 freestyle relay (1:38.22), and took fourth place in the 100 freestyle (53.68).

Jacqui Fox, Hall, Senior: Fox was the runner-up in the 100 backstroke in Class LL (56.82) and the State Open (56.75), and helped Hall’s 200 medley relay (1:49.87) finish third and the 400 freestyle relay (3:40.58) finish fifth in Class LL.

Javiera Garcia, Greenwich, Senior: The Fordham commit headlines another strong group of divers for the Cardinals’ dynasty. As a junior, she was fourth in Class LL, sixth in the FCIAC, and 14th at the State Open.

Olivia Herbert, Bethel/Immaculate, Senior: The UConn commit won two gold medals at last fall’s Class M meet, winning the 200 freestyle (1:54.93) and the 400 freestyle relay (3:42.62). She was also fourth in the 100 breaststroke (1:07.31) and third in the 200 medley relay (1:53.80).

Olivia Huewe, Weston, Senior: Huewe, a GameTimeCT All-State first teamer, won the Class S championship in the 100 backstroke (57.51) and placed second in the 200 individual medley (2:10.30), helping Weston win its eighth consecutive state title. She struck gold with two Trojan relays in the 200 medley and 400 freestyle.

Sydney Jee, Greenwich, Junior: Jee was a big part of the Cardinals’ Class LL championship, as she finished third in the 100 breaststroke (1:05.78) and eighth in the 200 individual medley (2:09.75). She’ll be key in Greenwich’s pursuit of FCIAC, Class LL and State Open crowns again this fall.

Avery Kudlac, Glastonbury, Senior: A GameTimeCT All-State first team selection, Kudlac grabbed postseason gold twice in the 200 freestyle, winning at Class LL (1:52.25) and the State Open (1:51.50), while also finishing second in the 100 butterfly in both meets. She set school records in both events.

Riley Kudlac, Glastonbury, Senior: Riley Kudlac picked up big points for Glastonbury, taking Class LL silver in the 50 freestyle (23.36) and 100 freestyle (51.07), while also finishing second in the State Open 100 free (51.49).

Kaitlyn Maggio, New Canaan, Senior: Maggio finished in the top four at all three postseason meets last year, taking second in Class L, third in the FCIAC, and fourth at the State Open.

Kathleen Murray, Ludlowe, Junior: Murray is the defending Class L champion in the 100 butterfly (55.80), and finished third in the event at the State Open (56.86). In the 50 freestyle, she finished second in the 50 freestyle (23.44), while taking third in Class L (23.55).

Annam Olasewere, Staples, Sophomore: Olasewere was the GameTimeCT All-State swimmer of the year during a terrific freshman season. The Most Outstanding Swimmer of the FCIAC championship meet, she set state records in the 50 freestyle (22.58) and 100 freestyle (50.14), winning both events at the FCIAC, Class LL and State Open meets.

Ayaan Olasewere, Staples, Sophomore: Part of a formidable one-two punch with her sister. Ayaan was part of the Wreckers’ 200 and 400 freestyle relay team, both of which captured Class LL and State Open titles. In Class LL, she was sixth in the 500 freestyle and seventh in the 100 freestyle.

Katrine O’Leary, Seymour, Senior: O’Leary is the defending Class S champion in both the 50 freestyle (23.90) and 100 freestyle (52.51), and was also part of the Wildcats’ winning 200 freestyle relay (1:39.15). She was also third in the 100 freestyle at the State Open.

Natalie Penman, New Canaan, Senior: As a junior, Penman was crowned the FCIAC champion when she scored 439.85 at the conference meet. She was also third in Class L and at the State Open, and returns to lead a strong group of Ram divers this fall.

Avery Potyrala, Cheshire, Senior: Potyrala won the Class L crown in the 100 freestyle (52.12), and was part of the Rams’ winning 200 (1:37.31) and 400 (3:32.36) freestyle relays.

Liv Sherry, Conard, Sophomore: Sherry burst onto the scene as a freshman and won the Class L title in the 100 breaststroke (1:07.60). She and her sister Tess were both part of the 400 medley relay (1:52.95) which finished fifth in Class L.

Tess Sherry, Conard, Sophomore: Tess Sherry, the twin sister of Liv, is another rising star for Conard and will be a key part of Red Wolves’ arsenal this fall.

Meghan Tiernan, Hall, Senior: Tiernan was All;-State in the 500 freestyle after finishing second in Class LL and fourth at the State Open. In the 200 individual medley, she was fourth in Class LL and at the Open.

Sophia Velleco, Seymour, Senior: Velleco won the 200 freestyle (1:53.09) at the Class S championships, while also finishing second in the butterfly (57.22). She also helped Seymour’s 200 freestyle relay (1:39.15) win and the 200 medley relay (1:49.88) finish second.

Miller Ward, Darien, Junior: Ward was a GameTimeCT All-State first teamer while helping helped lead Darien to the Class L championship last year, winning the 200 individual medley (2:04.06), 100 butterfly (56.23) and 200 medley relay (1:47.57). She also won the 100 butterfly (55.38) at the State Open, as the Wave finished in the runner-up spot.

What to look for

Sophomore encore?: The phrase “freshman phenom” is sometimes tossed around freely, but in the case of Staples’ Annam Olasewere, it’s a perfect fit. The now-sophomore was simply incredible in her first year with the Wreckers, breaking 50- and 100-yard freestyle records in the FCIAC, Class LL and State Open meets and setting the Southern Connecticut State University pool record in both events. She was an All-American, CHSCA All-State and All-FCIAC first team selection, was the Most Outstanding Swimmer at the FCIAC championships, and was named the GameTimeCT All-State Swimmer of the Year. She was recently named CT USA Swimming’s Swimmer of the Year and this summer qualified for the 2024 USA Olympic Swimming Trials in the 50-meter freestyle with a time of 25.44. Her sophomore season is up next. Hold on to your hats.

Dynasties and hot streaks: All four of last year’s state champs have been on a recent run of success. In Class S, Weston has won eight consecutive and 10 of the last 11 titles. Daniel Hand won the Class M championship, giving the Tigers two of the last three. They won in 2018 and 2021, finishing runner-up in 2019. Darien repeated as the Class L champion and has won eight of the last 10 crowns, and was runner up to Cheshire the other two seasons. The Wave, the State Open runner-up, could challenge for FCIAC and Open titles this season. Greenwich won in Class LL, returning to the winner’s circle after finishing second in 2019. The Cards have won 10 of the last 11 Class LL titles. Among teams that didn’t win a state title in 2021, Cheshire has been in an impressive stretch, finishing in the top two for five straight years while bouncing between Class LL and L. They won Class L in 2017 and 18, and Class LL in 2019, and added a State Open title in 2019.

Dealing Cards: Greenwich hit the trifecta last year, winning FCIAC, Class LL and State Open championships in decisive fashion during coach Brendan Heller’s first year. The Cardinals, which have won three of the last five FCIAC titles, and 10 of the last 11 Class LL crowns, are always a contender and will be prominent again this fall. But the Cards will need to overcome the graduation of 13 seniors, along with the departures of several top younger swimmers who are focused on club swimming. Greenwich’s roster features senior Javiera Garcia, a top returning diver who has committed to Fordham, along with junior Sydney Jee and senior Daisy Decker, two key swimmers. 

David.Stewart@hearstmediact.com; @dstewartsports