Girls swimming: Warriors hold off Rams to finish third in Class L

Going into this year’s Class L championships, Wilton High girls swim and dive head coach Todd Stevens knew the Warriors would be chasing the two favorites, Darien and Cheshire.

But the Warriors also found themselves chasing New Canaan, which had entered Tuesday’s Class L swim finals with a 54-point lead over Wilton due to last week’s diving. After one event on Tuesday, the lead was 68 points.

The Warriors eventually passed the Rams, only to lose the lead. They moved ahead of the Rams again after the second-to-last event, the 100-yard breaststroke, with Ellen Holmquist and Liela Hastings combining for 36 points and giving Wilton a 5.5-point lead.

In the final event, the 400 freestyle relay, Wilton needed to finish no lower than two places behind New Canaan to clinch third. The team of Emma Babashak, Emma Kauffeld, Holmquist and Taylor Loud came through with a season-best time (by nearly five seconds) of 3:37.6 to place fifth, one spot behind the Rams.

Wilton wound up taking third place in Class L, by 3.5 points, at the meet, held at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven.

“New Canaan swam really well. They closed what was a 38-point gap on paper down to six points. They surged,” said Stevens. “It was exciting between us and New Canaan.”

Darien won the Class L title for the sixth straight year with 729.5 points, followed by Cheshire (666.5), Wilton (486), New Canaan (482.5) and Amity Regional  (370) in the top five.

It was Wilton’s best finish since 2013, when it also placed third in Class L.

Because the Class LL and Class S championships still are to be held, Wilton will have to wait to see how many swimmers qualify for Saturday’s State Open. Top diver Allie Courtney is qualified for Friday’s State Open diving championship.

Stevens said two relays are qualified for the Open, and he was confident Wilton would get at least one swimmer qualified in both the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events. He was hopeful the team would also qualify swimmers in the 100-yard breaststroke, 100-yard butterfly, 200-yard freestyle, 500-yard freestyle and 200-yard individual medley.

The top 24 times in each event at the four class meets qualify for the Open.

“The Open is going to be fast, and some of our girls weren’t rested and shaved, so it might be hard for them to get in,” he said. “We’re going to have to wait and see.”

Loud was Wilton’s top individual scorer at Tuesday’s Class L finals with 49 points, as the sophomore was third in the 50 freestyle (season-best 24.95) and sixth in the 100 freestyle (season-best 53.84). She was the team’s lone all-state swimmer, based on her third place in the 50 free.

Holmquist, a freshman, was sixth in the 100 breaststroke (1:07.86) and 10th in the 200 individual medley (season-best 2:11.36) to tally 40 points.Kauffeld, a senior, was eighth in the 500 freestyle (5:12.70) and 11th in the 200 freestyle (1:58.62) for 37 points, and Babashak, a freshman, was eighth in the 100 butterfly (season-best 59.48) and 12th in the 500 freestyle (5:18.93) for a total of 36 points.

Sophomore Katie Stevenson totaled 37 points by placing eighth in the 100 freestyle (55.47) and 11th in the 50 freestyle (25.39), while sophomore Morgan Dill had 36 points, finishing ninth in the 50 freestyle (season-best 25.07) and 10th in the 100 free (season-best 55.18).

Junior Emily Walden tallied 26 points by placing 14th in both the 200 freestyle (season-best 2:00.23) and 500 freestyle (season-best 5:22.8).

Hastings, a sophomore, finished 14th in the 100 breaststroke (1:09.87) and 17th in the 200 IM (season-best 2:15.3) to tally 22 points.

Sophomore Julianna Hume was 19th in the 200 free (season-best 2:00.39) and 23rd in the 500 free (5:30.86) for 10 points; sophomore Lily Kealy was 23rd in the 100 butterfly (season-best 1:2.46) for two points; and senior NoraNoël Nolan was 24th in the 200 IM (2:21.53) for one point.

Wilton best relay finish came in the 200 freestyle relay, as the team of Dill, Stevenson, Kauffeld and Loud placed third in a season-best time (by three seconds) of 1:39.59.

The Warriors were sixth in the 200 medley relay (1:52.81) with the foursome of Dill, Holmquist, Babashak and Stevenson.

Due to its dominance in the diving, New Canaan had amassed 100 points before the start of Tuesday’s swim finals. And after a first-place finish in the 200-yard medley relay, the Rams led Wilton by 68 points.

Wilton gradually cut into the lead, before passing the Rams after the 100 freestyle. In the next event, the 500 freestyle, Wilton outscored New Canaan 51-11 to build a 350 to 305.5 lead.

The freestyles were Wilton’s best-scoring events, accounting for 248 of the team’s points.

Loud, Dill and Stevenson tallied 122 points in the sprint freestyle events, outscoring the Rams by nearly 40 points. In the distance freestyle events, Kauffeld, Babashak, Walden and Hume combined for 126 points, outscoring the Rams by 96 points.

Wilton led the Rams by 46.5 points with three events left, but were outscored 50-0 in the 100 backstroke, putting New Canaan ahead by 3.5 points.

Notes: Freshman and sophomores accounted for 237 of Wilton’s 336 individual points, and made up 10 of the 12 relay team legs.

“We’re already a great team. I think we’re only going to get better in the next two years. I’m looking forward to it,” said Stevens.