Take a well-deserved bow, Spartans
Shepaug swim team earns straight Berkshire League title
Twenty-seven titles in 32 years of Berkshire League swim competition.
Ten straight league championships, matching a skein strung together by coach Dick Ayer's Shepaug Valley High Spartans from 1980 through 1989.
The beat goes on for the swimmers and divers of Region 12.
It's a dynasty of success likely to match any in the state high school sports realm.
Still, for coach Todd Dyer and his recently crowned 2010-11 edition of Shepaug swimming, this year's capture of Berkshire laurels was especially memorable.
"Of the many seasons I have coached (18 since 1993, including five in Region 12)," said coach Dyer this week, "this one is especially special to me."
The Spartans surprised many Berkshire pundits and perhaps themselves, even if only a little bit, by churning out a 12-0 league meet record and a 14-3 overall ledger. The Region 12 crew then added an exclamation point to that performance by overwhelming its competition March 5 in the league championship meet at the Hotchkiss School pool in Lakeville (see photos).
Coach Dyer's crew earned 410 points out outswim Litchfield's 346 and Lewis Mills' 258 with ease. Northwestern (174), Gilbert (100), Wamogo (99) and Housatonic Valley rounded out the field.
"As a coach I am always trying to bring a group of people together into a cohesive unit that works well together and can push each other in positive ways," said coach Dyer.
"I think the team this year came closer to that ideal than many others I have been a part of," he reflected. "It was truly something special."
The Spartans' performance at Hotchkiss was truly something special.
Shepaug junior Griffin DeCaro keyed the well-balanced effort with victories at 2:07.38 in the 200-yard individual medley and at 5:00.91 in the 500-yard freestyle, each by comfortable margins.
Tommy Morse and Patrick Firmender placed 4-5 in the 200 IM and girls' champ Clara Wolfe and Gina DeMeo were overall third and seventh, respectively, in the 500 to bring home 72 of the Spartans' points.
The Spartans' other event victory was achieved at 1:35.71 in the 200-yard freestyle relay by Patrick Firmender, Colin Reilly, Griffin DeCaro and Richard Baron.
Other pivotal performances were turned in by Freddie Pitcher and Ken Buell with a 2-5 finish in the 100-yard backstroke, notable as Jessica Dumas was hot in their pursuit in sixth place overall to capture girls' gold.
In the 200-yard freestyle, Logan Ross checked in at 1:57.47 to claim second place to Lewis Mills' ubiquitous Luke Zalewski. Clara Wolfe was seventh overall to earn a the first of her individual girls' wins.
Baron, Reilly and Ross came back later to place 3-4-5 in the 100-yard freestyle.
Perhaps the most impressive show by the Region 12 squad was its 2-4-6-8 finish in the opening 200-yard medley relay. Sixteen swimmers contributed as the Spartans piled up 76 points to grab a lead they would never to relinquish.
Among the factors contributing to the team's development, coach Dyer explained, were a looming challenge from Litchfield and problems with the Shepaug pool in pre-season that required the team to borrow the use of the nearby Devereux Glenholme School pool for several weeks of practice.
Coach Dyer said he knew his team had potential with a plethora of divers in the mix, a number of experienced athletes returning and the promise of several talented frosh.
He also said he put his team through a tough regimen to get the Spartans ready, increasing yardage swam, upping the intensity and sharpening the focus.
Still, according to their coach, the bottom line still read the Spartans' team chemistry.
"The number one factor that made for such a successful season," coach Dyer concluded, "was the team's ability to gel and work together as one."