Greyhounds swim to second at NVL championships

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By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News

Naugatuck’s Spencer Maher competes in the 200 IM during the Naugatuck Valley League swim championships March 3 at Kennedy High School in Waterbury. -JIM SHANNON/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

WATERBURY — When the waves finally settled at the Naugatuck Valley League boys swim championships March 3, the Greyhounds once again finished as the second-best team in the league.

Holy Cross won its sixth straight championship with 934 points, outdoing Naugatuck (744) and third-place Woodland (638).

For the Greyhounds, it marked the fifth straight year they placed second behind Holy Cross.

Naugy came into the swim finals with a slight lead after a strong performance in the diving event Feb. 28. Naugatuck’s Ethan Phaneuf placed second (372.30 points) in diving. Justin Stone (fifth, 316.35, William Brown (seventh, 289.75) and Jayson Main (11th, 235.20) gave the Greyhounds a boost on the board.

“We knew going into the meet that there were only a few variables that could change,” Naugatuck head coach Dan Kneeple said. “We had to switch things up because we knew Seymour was going all out in the relays and you can only swim in four events.”

“Our focus was to try and stay with Holy Cross,” he added. “We also had to be mindful of Woodland. The start of the meet was certainly not what we were looking for, but we did manage to score some valuable points to get into a position to contend. Our diving team did a great job to help us to get into that position.”

Naugatuck senior Spencer Maher led the Greyhounds with a pair of gold medals. Maher won the 200 individual medley (2:00.18) and the 500 freestyle (4:48.02). Both times were top ten all time for Naugy.

“At the end of the day it was cool to walk away with two gold medals, but I was more pleased with helping my team by scoring the 64 points in trying to help us win a title,” Maher said.

Maher was one of four swimmers at the meet to win two events.

“The league seemed a lot faster this year, as indicated by four different swimmers winning double events,” he said. “There will always be that part of me that wishes we could have got it done and won an NVL title, but at the same time I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Just being able to swim for four years with this group of guys is a special memory that I will cherish the rest of my life.”

The Greyhounds placed in the top three of each relay event. The 200 freestyle relay team of Jacob Hall, Kevin Healey, Alex Manasoiu and Steve Herb finished second (1:35.25), as did the 400 freestyle foursome of Herb, Hall, Manasoiu and Maher (3:25.25). The 200 medley relay squad of Bailey Ceryak, David Green, Nelson Lavoura and Maher placed third (1:47.46).

Naugatuck’s Ethan Phaneuf completes a dive during the Naugatuck Valley League diving championships Feb. 28 at Kennedy High School in Waterbury. -JIM SHANNON/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

Naugatuck had its share of top-ten individual finishes: Hall (fourth, 200 IM; fifth 100 butterfly), Ceryak (fourth, 100 backstroke; eighth, 100 butterfly), Manasoiu (fifth, 100 freestyle; sixth 100 backstroke), Gavin McKeon (fifth, 500 freestyle; ninth 200 freestyle), Herb (sixth, 50 freestyle; eighth, 100 freestyle), Healey (seventh, 200 freestyle), and Lavoura (ninth, 50 freestyle).

As the season winds down, Kneeple likes what he sees on the horizon for the team.

“We are losing some top performers in Maher and a few other seniors, but I’m excited about what we see coming up through the ranks,” Kneeple said. “Our feeder program will be bringing in Spencer’s younger brother (Kellen).

“We are starting to get all the younger brothers from some of our prominent swimmers. Steve (Herb) is taking over for his brother, Austin. Hudson (Bombery) came in this year after his brother, Evan, had a great career here.”

Naugatuck turns its attention to the Class L meet. The diving finals are Thursday at Middletown High. The swim finals are March 17 at Wesleyan University in Middletown.

“I really like what I’m seeing as far as building this program back up,” Kneeple said. “I think we still have quite a bit of success to achieve in the states and we are looking forward to the challenge.”