Senior swimmers go out on dominant note


The four seniors, left to right, Riley Bachard, DJ Wheeler, Matt Pearson and Jordan Vaglivelo, with their parents, were honored in a small ceremony after the meet. — Kerry Condon photo

Masuk High swimmers enjoyed a successful Senior Night, sending off the four graduating seniors with a dominant home meet victory over New Milford.

The Panthers (5-4 overall) — winners of five consecutive meets — collected four first-place finishes in the 97-78 victory over the Green Wave, but coach Tom Harkins called the result bittersweet, knowing that this was the last regular season home meet for four seniors that have been key contributors for four years.

“They are extremely good swimmers,” said Harkins about the foursome of captain DJ Wheeler, Riley Bachard, Jordan Vaglivelo and Matt Pearson. “I could swim them in any event, and they would never complain. And they would score for us every time.”

Junior James O’Shaughnessy races in the 200 meter individual medley. — Kerry Condon photo

Especially this season, with a squad dominated by top underclassmen talent, Harkins said the seniors’ versatility allowed the longtime coach to fit them into any race, knowing they would garner 30 to 40 points a meet while not always touching the wall first.

“They will definitely be missed, and not just for their swimming ability,” said Harkins. “They are just a fantastic bunch of guys.”

Masuk opened the meet strong, earning the top two spots in the medley relay. The team of sophomore Will Briand, junior James O’Shaughnessy, Wheeler and freshman Matt Hull finished first (1:49.28). In second place was the team of Aidan Lein, Matt Aiello, Bachard and Zack Thornton (1:52.73).

Joey Nizzardo continued his impressive freshman campaign, earning firsts in the 200 free (1:56.41) and 500 free (5:04.66). He also swam on the first-place 400 free relay team with Matt Aiello, Wheeler and Briand, finishing in 3:50.84.

Fellow freshman Matt Hull placed first in the 50 free (23.99) and 100 free (52.76). Briand placed first in the 100 back (1:01.87), while O’Shaughnessy topped swimmers in the 100 breast (1:11.97).

The 200 free relay team of Bachard, Thornton, Aiello and Hull placed first in 1:38.00, and the 400 free relay team of Aiello, Nizzardo, Wheeler and Briand also finished first with a time of 3:50.84.

Junior James O’Shaughnessy races in the 200 meter individual medley. — Kerry Condon photo

The seniors also shined — with Wheeler placing first in the 100 fly (1:03.67) and fourth in the 50 free (25.97); Bachard first in the 200 IM (2:22.87) and second in the 100 free (57.36); and Pearson fourth in both the 200 IM (2:35.86) and 100 free (1:00.96). Harkins said unfortunately Vaglivelo was unable to swim, because he had not received medical clearance, but his contributions to the team over the past four years cannot be overlooked.

Masuk will look to continue its roll Tuesday at 4 p.m. against conference power Weston at the Weston Middle School pool. From there, Masuk moves on to the South-West Conference championship meet — with diving on Wednesday, Feb. 28, and swim events on March 2. The Class M qualifying meet will be March 10, and Harkins said nine swimmers have already qualified, putting Masuk in a position to score as a team during the event.

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