2021 CIAC girls swimming: Swimmers, storylines and meets to watch

Cheshire and Greenwich, the top two teams at the State Open in 2019, made do without a CIAC postseason last year. Cheshire won the SCC for the ninth time in succession. Greenwich placed first in the FCIAC. Greenwich saw its four-year Open run ended by Cheshire in 2019. Their showdown set for Class LL in 2020 when Cheshire moved up a class didn’t happen. Cheshire has dropped back down to Class L.


Julia Barto, Cheshire, Soph. — Barto made her mark in her first season competing for the Rams. She was the 200-yard individual medley champion at the SCC Virtual championship, posting a time of 2:08.09. That time was topsamong the state’s regional championship meets that were held. She led off Cheshire’s SCC champion 200-yard medley relay, which registered a time of 1:50.00. Barto also swam the lead-off leg of the 200-freestyle relay, which the Rams won at the SCC meet in 1:39.61 — the best time in the state.

Annie Bingle, Greenwich, Sr. — Bingle’s first season on the 1-meter diving board for Greenwich was certainly a successful one. She won the FCIAC West Region diving title, earning 461.25 points. Bingle has already earned All-America diving accolades twice in her career. Her point total ranked first among all the state’s regional diving championships.

Lauren Walsh, Trumbull, Sr. — Walsh won the 500-yard freestyle title at the FCIAC East Championships with a time of 4:58.13. Walsh’s time in the 500-freestyle ranked among the top three times in the state this season. In the 100-yard breaststroke at the FCIAC East Championships, Walsh finished first in an All-America time and FCIAC record time of 1:02.12. Walsh competed on the Eagles’ 200-yard medley relay team that took first in the FCIAC East meet and anchored the 400-freestyle relay, which posted a first-place finish. As a sophomore in 2019, Walsh claimed the first-place medal in the 100-breaststroke at the State Open and placed second in the 200-individual medley. She finished first and second in the breaststroke and IM, respectively at the 2019 Class LL Championships. In 2019, Walsh earned All-American accolades in three events — the 200 IM, 100 butterfly and 100-breaststroke.

Payton Foster, Greenwich, Soph. — Foster showcased her speed in the distance events last season. She finished second in the 200-yard freestyle at the FCIAC West Region Championships with a time of 1:51.13. Her time in the 200-freestyle ranked second in the numerous regional meets that were held in the state. In the 500-yard freestyle, Foster had a second-place finish at the FCIAC West Championships, clocking in at 4:58.26 — the third top time among the state’s regional championship meets. Foster anchored Greenwich’s 400-freestyle relay, which registered an FCIAC record and All-America consideration time of 3:30.89 at the FCIAC West meet. She also swam the anchor leg on the Cardinals’ 400 freestyle relay, which posted a time of 1:40.80.

Katrine O’Leary, Seymour, Jr. — O’Leary was a sprint specialist as a sophomore. Her time of 23.68 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle is among the top three performances in the event in the state. She set the school’s record in 50-yard freestyle that season. The 2019 season saw her finish fourth in the 100 freestyle and fifth in the 50 freestyle at the CIAC State Open Championships. O’Leary also paced Seymour in the 100 freestyle throughout the season.

Morgan Bagnall, Lauralton Hall, Sr. — A Junior National qualifier, Bagnall has made a verbal commitment to attend Penn State University. A distance freestyle specialist, Bagnall trains year-round with Bulldog Swimming. In July she earned four best times at the CSI LCM Senior Championships, where she recorded six top-14 finishes. Bagnall placed fifth in the 800-meter freestyle and sixth in the 1500-meter free at the ISCA International Senior Cup in March.

Tahlia Crowley, East Catholic, Sr. — Crowley placed fifth in the 100-backstroke at the Connecticut Championships in February swimming with the Cheshire Sea Dog Club. She was third in the 50 freestyle at the Class S meet and finished as the runner-up in the 100-backstroke.


Matt Traub steps in at Cheshire for Dave Modzelewski, who left for a position in Boston after guiding the Rams since 2018. Cheshire has won 75 straight dual meets and nine consecutive SCC titles (26 in 27 years overall). This is the first head coaching job for Traub, who swam for Torrington High for four years (2012-15). He swam at Boston University (2015-19) and was part of Texas A&M’s post-grad/pro team until the pandemic hit. Traub also swam for the Cheshire Sea Dogs through 2020.

Matt Pohlman will lead North Haven, which placed fourth in the SCC Division I meet a year ago for the recently retired Martha Phelan. Pohlman was head coach at Staples (1997-2003) and ran the Stratford YMCA program (2015-18). A Stratford native, he is a Southern Connecticut State University graduate. Pohlman coaches the Paugasset Club in Orange.


Greenwich has been the class of the LL division, winning titles every year since 2010. Staples, Glastonbury, Hall, Ridgefield, Trumbull, Amity and Southington are top contenders. Cheshire, winners of the last two Class L titles, will compete with Wilton, New Canaan, Darien and Wethersfield. Class M finds Brookfield, Lyman Hall, East Lyme, Guilford and Daniel Hand in the driver’s seat. Weston, Seymour and Lauralton Hall headline Class S.


Norwalk/McMahon vs. Westhill/Stamford, Sept 10, at Westhill pool, 3:30 p.m. FCIAC co-op rivals meet to open season. N/M’s Alexandra Pereira and W/S’s Hannah Chuckas return as all-division divers. Morgan Saunders was All-FCIAC Central in the 100-breaststroke.

Staples at Ridgefield, Sept. 14, at Barlow Mountain Pool, 4 p.m. Ella Alpert (100-butterfly, relays) and Jessica Qi (100-freestyle, 200-freestyle, relays) were FCIAC All-Central choices for Staples. Riley Riebling (100-backstroke, relay), Miranda Bonitatebus (200 IM, relay), Emma Levine (50-freestyle, relay) and Maddie Thomas (diving) are all-division returnees.

Ridgefield at Greenwich, Sept. 29, 4:30 p.m. Greenwich’s Payton Foster (200-freestyle, 500-freestyle, relay), Annie Bingle (diving), Caterina Li (100-butterfly, 100-breaststroke, relays), Sabrina Hobert (relays), Victoria Liu (200 IM) and Sydney Jee (100-breaststroke) took FCIAC All-West honors a year ago.

Amity at Cheshire (Community Pool), Oct. 22, 7 p.m. Amity placed third to Cheshire and Lauralton Hall in the SCC’s Division I meet a year ago. It will be led by senior Katherine O’Connor (50-freestyle, 100-butterfly) and junior Grace Mahon (100-butterfly). Champion Cheshire’s top returnees are Julia Barto (200 IM) and Julianna Tyler (100-butterfly).

Weston at Newtown, Oct. 19, 4 p.m. Weston has won six straight SWC titles. Newtown was league runner-up in 2020. Weston junior Olivia Huewe was second in the 100-backstroke, third in the 200 IM and part of the winning 200-medley relay. Adele Kopis and Millie Bailey won medals in the 400-freestyle relay.

Ridgefield at Darien (YMCA), Oct. 20, 3 p.m. Darien will be led by All-FCIAC West honorees Emily Kalvatis (relay), Maggie Sedlock (relay) and Natalia Ferranto (50-freestyle, relay).

— Bill Bloxsom