Along with a new season comes a few changes for the Joel Barlow High boys swim team.
In terms of numbers, the Falcons are smaller than they were last year. They are also without a number of their top swimmers from then.
A new head coach will guide them in 2012-2013. Yet Eileen Earle is well aware of what challenges lay ahead.
“We’ll hold our own,” said Earle, who was named head coach about a month ago. “It’s kind of a rebuilding season.”
Officially practicing for more than two weeks now the Falcons know who will swim which events. They will soon find out how well they stack up against the competition as they open the season this week.
Earle is no stranger to Barlow swimming, having served as the team’s assistant coach the past two years. She is also head coach of the Barlow girls swim team in the fall, a position she has held since 1998.
This season she succeeds Brandt Nigro, who led the team for two seasons before transferring to the Farmington school district.
Earle inherits a team that went 3-7 last season, its first as an independent program after having a cooperative arrangement with Immaculate for five years. The Falcons did much better at the South-West Conference finals, however, taking fifth out of 11 teams.
Barlow moved to Class S in state competition last year and was eighth out of 29.
But Barlow is now without a number of talented swimmers who have left since then. A big loss is that of Mike Pilyugin, an All-SWC selection and league champ in the 100 and 200 free. He was also State Open champ in the former event as well as the 100 backstroke, making the All-State team.
They also graduated Vance Hancock and Izzy Hermatin, who swam in the relays.
Several other swimmers did not return, opting to devote more time to their club swim teams. The Falcons will miss junior Sam DeLise (All-SWC, All-State), who was league and Class S champ in the 200 individual medley and the 500 free. Bobby Lesko (All-SWC second team, All-State), who swam the 100 butterfly and 100 breaststroke, did not return as well.
Barlow will count on a number of swimmers to step up this season. Among them are senior captains Mike Caruso and Brendan Coppinger. Caruso will swim the butterfly and Coppinger has experience in the backstroke and freestyle events.
Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference rules state that girls who play a fall sport can compete on a boys swim team in the winter. Two on Barlow are senior captains Kyle Guffey and Paige Kirby. Guffey can swim the butterfly as well as the distance freestyle events and Kirby will swim breaststroke and freestyle.
“They have some experience,” said Earle. “They all have their specialties. They’ll help us out a lot this year.”
Also back is senior Kevin O’Donnell, a diver.
Helping Barlow is a big junior class that includes Ray Bortolot (All-SWC second team), who will swim the sprint freestyle events. For the distance events it has Marissa DiBella.
Ted Hancock can swim the sprints and Jeremy Touma is a freestyle and backstroke swimmer. Aaron Hurwitz will compete in the breaststroke, as will Nate Varga, who can also swim freestyle, as will Ben Rigby.
Two divers include Colleen Stimola and Matt Mintz.
From the sophomore class is Sean Murray, who will swim backstroke. Two freshman who can make an impact is Dan Fry, who swam with the Wilton Wahoos and can compete in a number of events. Also from the freshman class is Gloria Davey.
The Falcons will try to improve their league record from a year ago. While improving their skills they hope to qualify as many swimmers as they can for the league and state meets.