Darien boys swim team looks to build on last season's .500 campaign
For the Darien boys swimming and diving team, the difference between its actual 5-5 record in dual meets last season and a possible 7-3 finish came down to two points.
A pair of one-point losses to Westhill-Stamford and Staples left a bitter taste for a team that went on to finish fourth in the FCIAC championship and third in the CIAC Class L meet.
"Last year, we had two disappointing losses, so we're hoping to get seven or eight wins and hopefully make a run at FCIAC and states, too," said Owen Brannigan, one of Darien's three senior captains along with Rohit Datta and Matt Ross.
After graduating only three seniors, Darien returns a slew of experience with six seniors, five juniors and three sophomores.
The other seniors are Andrew Lomanto, Connor Tracey and Matthew Benz. They will joined by juniors Nicolai Ostberg, Dylan Gilhooly, Lee Christensen, Kyle O'Donnell and Timothy Gould and sophomore Zach Pear, Cesar Pena and Robert Waters.
Darien looks especially strong in diving as Christensen returns after winning the FCIAC and Class L title last season. Also, O'Donnell placed fourth in the Class L diving and Waters just missed cracking the top-10 as a freshman with an 11th-place finish.
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Weeks is a big loss, as he recorded four top-10 finishes in the Class L meet last year while Baker had a pair of top-fives (third in the 200-yard freestyle and fifth in the 200-yard freestyle relay.).
Still, Darien returns 75 percent of its 200 freestyle relay team that finished fifth in the state meet (Brannigan, Ostberg, Gilhooly and Baker) and half of the 400 freestyle relay team that placed sixth (Weeks, Ostberg, Smelser and Baker).
Overall, Darien once again appears solid in the relays, as three members of the 200 medley relay unit, which was seventh in the Class L meet, are back as well (Gilhooly, Pena, Brannigan and Weeks).
"I definitely think we're going to have a good season," Ross said. "We've got a lot of good underclassmen and plenty of returning swimmers who will do well this year. With a lot of hard work and dedication, we should expect some pretty good results."
Individually, Ostberg, who also placed fifth in the 100 butterfly in Class L, and Pear (fifth in the 500 freestyle and 10th in the 200 freestyle) probably standout as Darien's top swimmers, although Pena also excelled as a freshman last year with an eighth-place showing at the state meet in the 100 breaststroke.
"I look forward to seeing what strengths and weaknesses we have and trying to balance out our lineups a little better," Darien coach Dennis Flores said. "Overall, we're just looking to better our times, get closer as a team and try to build a team."
Still, the Blue Wave tended to start meets strong last season and slip at the end, which is something they definitely want to avoid this season.
"We're going to make sure that we really finish our races," Datta said. "We had some issues with finishing our races, but we want to go all the way through and make sure we're not on the losing end of those one- and two-point meets."
Darien will get an early chance to avenge one of last season's defeats as it opens at home against Westhill-Stamford on Dec. 18.