For the first time in 50 years, Darien swimming ties Greenwich

On Wednesday, Darien High School boys swimming and diving team traveled to Greenwich High School to compete against the Cardinals in the FCIAC dual meet.

In the last event of the day, the 400 freestyle relay, the Blue Wave’s Connor Martin, Chris Zhang, Karl Wadleigh and Spencer Erickson led most of the way to finish the first with a time of 3:19.48. Ultimately, this win helped the Darien Blue Wave come from behind to tie the score, 93-93 with the Cardinals at the Greenwich High School pool.

While a tie is rare in swim dual meet, for the Darien team, this tie represents the second best team performance against the Greenwich rival over the past 50 years. The last time Darien beat Cardinals was about two generations ago, during the 1969-1970 season.

For the evening, the Blue Wave, which is 1-0-1 with a win over Trumbull, racked up nine wins in the 12 event races. Notwithstanding of the top spot counts, the two teams managed to hold each other neck to neck throughout the entire meet.

The teams switched positions on the lead-board five times and were in a 70-70 tie after the 200 free relay.

In the opening event, Darien junior Erickson, sophomores John Barsanti and Martin, and senior Zhang won the 200 medley relay in 1:40.07. Greenwich finished in second and third places.

Wadleigh, a junior, gave the Blue Wave a first-place finish in the 200 freestyle (1:49.90) and Zhang finished in fourth place (1:51.59). Darien outscored Greenwich 16-14.

Greenwich Junior Stephen Todorovic won the 200 individual medley (1:59.22). Darien’s Erickson finished in second place (2:01.73) and Barsanti was in fifth place (2:05.69). Greenwich took away the lead, 25-21.

Martin touched the wall first in 22.58 for the 50 freestyle. Sophomore Conway Zhou finished in fourth place (23.41) and junior Connor Zielinski in fifth place (23.66).

In the diving event, Darien senior Wiley Schmidt was the winner, earning a score of 325.10, and senior Owen Stevens finished in second place (302.55). With this 1-2 finish, Darien retook the lead 40-38.

In the 100 butterfly, Darien scored another 1-2 finish. Martin took the top honor again in 53.49, followed by Zhou at 55.00 for second place.

Minutes later, Wadleigh hit the water to win his second individual event in the 100 freestyle (49.94). Sophomore Nico Clark finished in third place (50.85), and Darien further expanded the overall lead to 61-49.       

Cardinal Todorovic won the 500 freestyle for Greenwich with a time of 4:52.35. Zhang finished in second place (4:59.15) for the Blue Wave, and sophomore Pragun Sharma was fifth (5:14.64).

In the 200 free relay, Cardinals Mark Merson, Baxter, Clark and Niki delaSierra led the way to finish first in 1:32.71.

Darien’s Clark, Zielinski, Zhou, and junior Matt Freeman finished in 1:34.49 for second place, but Greenwich brought the meet into a tie at 70-70.

Going into the final stretch, the competition became more intense and the atmosphere much louder. However, the swimmers continued busily flexing their muscles in the pool.

Erickson won the 100 backstroke (55.80), sophomore Scotty Tuck finished third (58.90) and junior Nick Giotis fifth (59.46). Darien grabbed the lead once again from Greenwich for 80-76.

In the 100 breaststroke, the Cardinals’ Tom Lewis finished first in 1:02.12 and Ryan Lynch was second. For Darien Barsanti was third (1:03.42) and Clark was fourth (1:05.33).

That gave Greenwich the lead at 87-85 going into the final event: The 400 free relay.

By this time, Darien’s bench area was empty as each team lined up 4 squats onto the deck to race in the 400 free relays. For Darien, sixteen swimmers are more than half of the entire team. And the rest of the boys had their heads and shoulders toward the pool – cheering

Stepping up onto the block for the fourth time in the evening, Martin, Zhang, Wadleigh, and Erickson built and expanded their lead stroke-by-stroke and leg-by-leg to win the 400 relay for a milestone tie. Greenwich took the second and third place in the event.

This year, Darien has 30 swimmers and divers, one of its largest teams in recent years. The Wave also has Liz Blau as its new head coach, with Jessica Barnes as the new assistant coach for swimming, and Adam Vance returning as the diving coach.

“This gives the boys more confidence,” Blau said of the tie with Greenwich. “All of the boys raced well here today; every one of them stepped up even though they are pretty tired as they are putting in a lot of quality swimming each day. They are working harder and smarter than they've ever worked before. But we have a lot of work still to do and not much time to do them in. We are challenging them to stay focused each and every day.”

Darien and Greenwich are two of the young and growing teams in the FCIAC and they will meet again in conference final in late February.

The swim trials and finals will be held at Greenwich High, with the trials on Tues., Feb. 27, and the finals on Thurs., March 1, and the diving finals will be held at Westhill High in Stamford on Wednesday, Feb. 28.