Young squad showing competitive spirit

Opening the season with consecutive losses has done nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of longtime Masuk boys swim coach Tom Harkins.

“I couldn’t be happier with the effort of this team” said Harkins about the 25-member squad, only four of which are seniors. “This is a great group of boys, and I have been very impressed with their performance.”

And the team’s competitive spirit was again on display Tuesday, when Masuk visited a strong New Fairfield team, losing 88-97, but, according to Harkins, only five spots and 2.7 seconds overall separated defeat from victory for his underclassmen-laden squad.

Freshman Joey Nizzardo won the 200 free (2:01.16) and 500 free (5:07.0), while fellow freshman Mike Aiello won the 100 fly (59.22) and placed fourth in the 100 breast (1:12.75). The 200-free relay team of junior James O’Shaughnessy and the freshmen trio of Ryan Cammarano, Aiello and Matt Hull placed first with a time of 1:39.04.

Masuk also dominated the 100 free, with sophomore Will Briand (52.0), Hull (53.34) and junior Zack Thornton (55.56) placed second through fourth, respectively. Hull also placed second in the 50 free (23.93), .28 off the top finisher, while Thornton was third at 24.27.

Harkins was also impressed with the performance of two seniors — Riley Bachard and Jordan Vaglivelo. Bachard placed second in the IM at 2:26.33 and fourth in the 100 fly at 1:04.57, which was just off his personal best for that race.

Vaglivelo swam the 200 free and just missed his best time by just more than a second, an incredible feat, according to Harkins, since a severe illness has held the senior to just one practice this season. This was Vaglivelo’s first competition of the season.

“It was a tight meet, so it is tough to lose it, but the kids are positive all the time,” said Harkins.

Masuk swam against Brookfield last Tuesday, losing 77-93, but in the process giving the conference power a more competitive matchup. Harkins said at one point Masuk had a one-point advantage in the meet, leaving Brookfield a tad surprised.

“Overall, I am very impressed with how hard our team swam,” said assistant coach Justin Scarpati. “When you come into a meet with a team of Brookfield’s caliber, it can be very intimidating, but our guys didn’t seem to let that happen. They step up to the challenge, were ready to compete, and swam well.”

Nizzardo won the 200 free (1:56.38) and the 500 free (5:07.41), Aiello won the 100 fly (58.76) and placed third in the 50 free (25.23), and Hull tied for first in the 50 free (24.15) and placed third in the 100 free (53.07). Briand won the 100 free (51.6) and placed second in the 100 back (1:03.56).

“Our younger swimmers are still surprising us with their performances,” said Scarpati. “Mike Aiello winning the 100 fly, Will Briand takes the 100 free, Joey Nizzardo wins the 500 free, and many other very strong performances.”

Harkins also cited O’Shaughnessy, who earned personal best times in the 100 breast and 200 free relay, all while competing with a bad shoulder.

Harkins also credited senior captain DJ Wheeler for his strong performance in the medley relay as he was struggling with an illness and not 100 percent. The coach said that Wheeler, Bachard, Vaglivelo and fellow senior Matt Pearson continue to “provide tremendous leadership, and the young guys are following their lead.”

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