English swims past Classical in rivalry meet

Devin Curley and the Bulldogs defeated Classical on Tuesday afternoon. (Item Photo by Katie Morrison)

LYNN — The English swimming and diving team is having one of its best seasons in recent memory, but coach Lisa Trahant was still nervous going into the team’s rivalry meet with Classical.

And for good reason. Trahant remembers beating Classical in her first year as coach seven seasons ago, but the Bulldogs haven’t come out on the winning end of the rivalry showdown since.

At least until Tuesday’s meet at the Peter Sawin Natatorium at Tech, as the Bulldogs defeated the Rams, 99-84.

“It’s an exciting night for English. It was a team effort and I couldn’t be more happy for them,” Trahant said. “The team came in really excited for this meet and I’m happy for them because they’ve been working hard. It’s a great win for them. It was exciting for me too.”

The Rams trailed from the get-go, but made things interesting down the stretch.

“After today’s meet, I feel as though we have a lot to be proud of,” Classical coach Denise Silva said. “Although we didn’t win on paper, there were a lot of student-athletes who had their best times and made improvements, and as a coach, that’s an awesome feeling. The camaraderie my kids showed is second to none. I have 36 student-athletes on my team, and all 36 participated and scored today, and they all have reasons to hold their heads up high.”

English started strong right off the block, as the 200-yard medley relay team of Mary Lawlor, Devin Curley, Peter Phelan and Caroline Zuffante (2 minutes, 11.03 seconds) took first place and the group of Carlie Harris, Dax Billingsley, Abby Geaney and Cole Story fought to a second-place finish. Zuffante then finished almost 30 seconds before Classical’s Sydney St. Ives (second place, 2:39.2) in the 200 freestyle, placing first in 2:11.97. English expanded its lead in the 200 individual medley, as Phelan (2:21.57) snuck by Classical’s Jacob Lang (2:22.33).

One of the closest races of the evening was also one of the shortest, as Classical’s Cristian Flores powered to a win in the 50 free (27.64), topping English’s Curley (28.82). It was the first of two wins for Flores, as he also won the 100 free.

“Cristian Flores came out of nowhere,” Silva said. “He had two first-place finishes, 27 (seconds in the 50 free) and 1:05 (in the 100 free). Previously, his best times had been 30 (seconds) and 1:12. Huge.”

Despite Flores’ big performance, the Rams went into the diving portion of the event down 41-21. Sarah Sirois helped bridge that gap, beating out English’s Hannah Trahant (177.80) with a score of 240.25 in diving. Classical’s Ciara Collins came in third with 156.95.

Then, the Rams started making some noise. Carly Mendonca swam to the first of her two first-place finishes, as she slipped past Phelan (1:10.84) with a time of 1:04.59. Flores logged another first, this time in the 100 free, but English was able to grab second and third (Shane Carino, 1:06.37 and Cole Story, 1:07.63, respectively).

One of the highlights of the night was when Classical sophomore Lang broke an 18-year-old record, previously held by Kevin Coulon, in the 500 free. Lang bested Coulon, who set the record in 2000, by just two-tenths of a second, finishing in 5:32 even.

“The sky’s the limit for Jacob,” Silva said. “He’s so unselfish. He’ll swim whatever you want. I’m so proud of him.”

A win in the 200 freestyle relay for the Rams team of Flores, Mendonca, Zach Westin and Lang (1:55.18) and another victory for Mendonca in the 100 backstroke (1:06.97 in a tight race with English’s Mary Lawlor, who finished in 1:08.97) got the Rams within nine points at 81-72. But English relied on its consistency and depth in the 100 breaststroke, as Curley (1:24.82) and Dax Billingsley (1:28.70) took the top two places. The Bulldogs sealed the deal with a win in the 400 free relay, with Zuffante, Lawlor, Hannah Trahant and Phelan finishing in 4:20.57.

“(Devin Curley) and Dax are very consistent with their breaststroke,”Trahant said. “At the end of the meet when it’s close, it’s nice to have those strong ones in there.

“I have a very determined group of kids,” Trahant added. “They’re working together and finding consistency. And this year the team is just so close, and it’s amazing to see this group of kids and how they work together not just in the pool, but out of the pool. When you have that effort and everyone working together, it just works.”

The Bulldogs improve to 5-2 with, while Classical’s still searching for its first win.

“I want to compliment the other team. Lisa swam for me many years ago, and it’s awesome to watch the program grow and see the student-athletes right here in our own city flourish,” Silva said. “I’m happy for their good season. We’re 0-6, but it doesn’t feel like an 0-6 season, not by any stretch.”

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