Guilford swimming goes from winless to unbeaten in six seasons

The early days of the Guilford girls swimming and diving team are relatively recent.

Year one was the 2017 season and despite going winless, coach Jenn Amasino made sure her athletes were celebrating achievements big and small.

“We would talk at the end of the meet and we would always pick a swimmer of the meet,” Amasino said. “It doesn’t mean they have the best time or won an event, they could have just accomplished something like doing an event that they had been scared to do for the first time, or a personal best time.

“Even when we were 0-12, we would celebrate those kinds of accomplishments, share those, and the girls were so happy.”

From those meager beginnings, the Grizzlies now have a lot to celebrate.

After going 0-22 during its first two seasons, Guilford is now 12-0 and has secured the SCC’s Div. 2 regular-season title. That follows a 10-1-1 season in which they shared the D2 crown with Lyman Hall after those teams tied 93-93 in their dual meet.

The Grizzlies opened this season with a 92-89 victory over Lyman Hall, a harbinger of the good things ahead.

Amasino credits the turnaround to several factors: A change in culture, support from the school and community, a commitment from the athletes, strong swimmers and divers, and solid leadership from senior captains Grace Young, Charlotte Martocci and Rylan Jacobson.

“They’ve been in the program long enough to see when it was a huge success to just win a meet, and see where it is today,” Amasino said. “With that kind of leadership, it helps infuse the culture you need to be successful. All three of them bring that to the table and are role models to the younger athletes.”

Last season, Guilford was fifth at the overall SCC championships and ninth in Class M. It also won the SCC Div. 2 title in 2020 when virtual meets were held due to COVID.

Amasino, who swam for East Haven High and Southern Connecticut State University, was Daniel Hand’s head coach for 10 years starting in 2000, and guided the Tigers to runner-up finishes in the SCC and Class M in 2004.

Amasino, a Guilford resident, stepped down from coaching while raising her daughter and son, but returned to the high school coaching ranks to help start the Grizzlies program. She also coaches club swimming for the Soundview YMCA Stingrays in Branford, and a summer league team out of the Guilford Racquet and Swim Club.

Amasino pointed out that “tremendous swimmers came through Guilford when no program existed” and went on to have success at college after swimming high school with other area teams, such as Branford and North Haven.

At first, Amasino said, the program was not fully supported financially, with only the head coaching stipend paid by the school.

“The athletes and their parents had to do a ton of fundraising to make the program even exist,” Amasino said. “Now we’re basically a fully-funded program. We’ve been able to get support from the community, the board of ed and the school itself.”

After going winless in its first two seasons, Guilford was 7-6 in 2019, starting the upward trend which has led to this year’s unbeaten team.

Diving has been a big factor, as the Grizzlies went from no divers in the first season to five this year,

Senior Ella Esposito and sophomore Jordyn Gould have both held program records.

Esposito holds the mark in the 11-dive format with a score of 357.00m, breaking the record of 322.85) set by Gould last season. Gould set the school record for the six-dive format at 235.60.

Sophomore Ava Seseke has scored 320.85 for 11 dives, and 195.10 for six.

Junior Sorina Cheng has been a key swimmer and set a school record in the 100 backstroke with a time of 1:02.92. Amasino said Cheng can contribute in any event and is a top performer in the 200 IM (2:19.52) and 100 butterfly (1:05.53).

Grace Young has been key in the 100 breaststroke (1:10.52), 200 IM (2:20.71) and 100 freestyle (57.23), and her sister, sophomore Kate Young, has starred in the 50 freestyle (26.39), 100 freestyle (58.05) and 100 butterfly (1:05.93).

Sophomore Isabel Torello has been a standout in the 200 freestyle (2:04.46) and 500 freestyle (5:35.77), and freshman Aislin Cohen has made an immediate impact in the 50 freestyle (25.97), 100 freestyle (55.80), 200 freestyle (2:02.46), and 200 IM (2:22.78).

Other standouts include Martocci in the 200 freestyle (2:12.60) and 100 freestyle (1:01.07), Jacobson in the 200 IM (2:32.13) and 100 breaststroke (1:17.35), junior Bella Blanco in the 200 freestyle (2:19.01), 50 freestyle (28.44), and 100 freestyle (1:03.14), sophomore Evi Bertolini in the 500 freestyle (6:15.41) and 100 backstroke (1:13.89), and freshman Maria Clara Cruz in the 200 freestyle (2:11.92) and 500 freestyle (6:03.16).

Amasino said the success of the program goes even deeper.

“I really do recognize that the reason we’re having the success that we are is that we’re all-in,” Amasino said. “Everyone is contributing from my fastest swimmer down to my most novice swimmer. They’re all buying into the culture.”; @dstewartsports