NORWALK -- Doug Marchetti, head coach of the Norwalk-Brien McMahon co-op boys swim team, is confident that success--win or lose--against the upper echelon programs in the FCIAC will benefit his youthful roster late in the season.
After opening the year with back-to-back losses, Norwalk-Brien McMahon faced its toughest challenge to date when it hosted perennial power Greenwich on Jan. 14. The Cardinals have served as the benchmark for success over the last few decades, having won the Class LL state championship every year since 1992 and the State Open in eight of the last 12 seasons.
Ultimately, the Cardinals splashed away the possibility of an upset in their usual dominating fashion, but that didn't faze Marchetti, who applauded Norwalk-Brien McMahon's ability to compete.
"I thought we swam very well," Marchetti said, following his team's 128-57 loss to Greenwich. "I thought our kids really did a nice job competing. We talked about the caliber of our opponent today coming into the meet, and we talked about how you can't worry about the kid you're swimming next to. I wanted them to focus on swimming their race, worrying about their time and their lane. I thought they did a very good job with that."
With the Cardinals just one day removed from a tight win over Stamford-Westhill, Greenwich head coach Terry Lowe left 12 of his top swimmers home, giving the younger portion of his roster an opportunity to build upon the team's success. Norwalk-Brien McMahon, however, swam out to an early lead, as Jake St. John, Chris Crothers, Sherman Lau and John Ospina won the 200-yard medley relay in 1:53.96--less than a second ahead of Greenwich's Tim Hardman, Will Klinger, Luke Fikre and Max Zim.
"We try to put our best kids in that relay and it got us off to a good start," Marchetti said. "That was hopefully a byproduct of preparing for the meet and going in with the right kind of mindset."
With Norwalk-Brien McMahon leading, the Cardinals (6-0) quickly raced back as freshman Andrew Stotesbery placed first in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:58.35, narrowly defeating Norwalk-Brien McMahon's Leo Sweeney (2:00.78). Greenwich's Robert Peterson followed with a victory in the 200-yard individual medley (2:13.24).
Despite the scaled-down lineup, the Cardinals still cruised to the finish, winning nine of the 12 events. Fikre placed first in the 100-yard fly with a time of 59.17, while Klinger (1:11.61), and teammates Ricky Marcangeli (1:13.46) and Scott Carlson (1:16.44) grabbed the top three spots in the 100-yard breaststroke.
"The depth shows and the fact that they're well-prepared," Lowe said. "All those kids know how to do their job."
Ospina, a senior tri-captain, starred throughout the meet. Ospina followed up his victory in the 200-yard medley relay by placing first in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 24.20--Klinger placed second in 25.09--and in the 100-yard freestyle in 53.69, defeating Greenwich's J Whelan (54.18) and Zim (54.39).
"John swam very well. He's probably our go-to-guy this year," Marchetti said. "When we really need a good swim, John's the guy we're going to look to. He had a great meet today."
It's performances like Ospina's that will breathe life into Norwalk-Brien McMahon (0-3) and give the team confidence as it heads into the challenging part of its regular season schedule, along with the FCIAC finals.
"That's the kind of competition we're looking for--the ability to compete with a real strong opponent. If we can do that against a team like Greenwich, it should bode well for us further on down the road," Marchetti explained.
Greenwich's James O' Sullivan, Hardman, Taylor Moore and Andrew Dessy won the 400-yard freestyle relay with a time of 3:42.33, while the Cardinals' Connor Brisson, a three-time All-American, won the diving competition handily, scoring 311 points.
Norwalk-Brien McMahon will look to build off its performance when it swims against Hamden on Jan. 26 at Hamden High School.