The New Milford Barracudas might not be the new kid on the block in area youth swimming.

Yet, don't be surprised if familiar rivals are these days giving second looks at the New Milford Parks & Recreation squad.

Guided by veteran coach Jeanne DiGiacomo and a strong staff of fellow coaches, the 100-swimmer strong Barracudas recently completed a banner winter season.

The New Milford youths capped their campaign recently by capturing first place in Division II of the 11-team Yankee Swim League.

It marked the first such title in the New Milford youths' 30-year history.

Among the season's highlights was an undefeated dual-meet record for the Barracuda boys.

The program also registered for the first time as a USA Swimming-sanctioned team.

"This is a major milestone for the team," said team public relations woman Sara Brazer, "which now offers a wider range of swimming levels for children ages 6--18 in the Greater New Milford area."

Coach DiGiacomo agrees the USA Swimming affiliation is a boon to the program.

"This is a great opportunity for the local area swimmers to advance up to the next level in their ability and competition," she said. "Being associated with USA Swimming now gives our swimmers an opportunity to be part of the national organization, and all the benefits that it holds.

"I am honored to be a part of this team, and proud how far we have come."

The Barracudas also added USA Swimming coach Roger Simmons to its staff. He brings with him extensive background coaching from local teams to regional and zone teams around the country.

"I didn't know what to expect when I joined the Barracudas this past season, but it didn't take very long to see that we had a great bunch of kids with a dedicated coaching staff," Simmons said. "I am very pleased with the level of success we had for our first season as a USA-sanctioned team, and I can't think of one swimmer who didn't drop a significant amount of time in the events they swam."

Simmons noted many swimmers were able to compete in events they hadn't thought possible before.

"It was a great start for the team," Simmons said, "and I look forward to building on the success of our short-course season as we get ready to start our spring/summer (long-course season)."

Ninety Barracudas went to 8-and-under championships or 9-and-over trials.

Of the 9-and-over squad, there were 76 personal-best times at trials and 35 swimmers moved on to the championship competition where there were 55 personal-best times.

At their respective championship meets, 8-and-under athletes finished fourth, the 7 and 8 boys and girls both finished fifth, the 9-and-over girls finished seventh and the 9-and-over boys finished third.

Overall, the Barracudas finished fifth place as a team at the championship meet, elevating the team into Division I for next season.

In additiion, 28 Barracudas were also registered USA swimmers for the winter's short-course season, with 22 qualifying for regional competition.

Three continued on to age-group competition alongside the best swimmers in Connecticut.

Next up will be the springtime USA Swimming long-course season and then the Parks & Recreation season during the summer.

"The team is fortunate to have a stellar team of coaches this year, who pushed the team to challenge themselves, as well as having fun," Brazer said.

Coaches include Cheryl Caridad, Jeanine Lynch, Melissa Bieber and Mark Grello.

The team practices at both the New Milford Sports Club and at Canterbury School.

"It is extremely rewarding to see the growth and strength that the Parks & Recreation Barracudas has maintained and developed over the years," said Paulette Smith, general manager of the New Milford Sports Club. "Huge strides were made this year."

Smith was the Barracudas' longtime coach before turning her attention full-time to her job at the New Milford Sports Club.

"The hard work and dedication from the coaching staff, the support from all of the parents, and the enthusiasm to succeed from the swimmers, has been instrumental in the continued growth of the program," Smith said. "The New Milford Sports Club is pleased to be supporting this team."