By BOB YORK
The path from the pool to the podium has become rather familiar territory to the boys and girls of Deerfield Academy. The boys medaled at the New England Prep School Division I Swimming and Diving Championships this winter for the seventh consecutive year. The girls, meanwhile, came up short–by one slot–on showing off some bling for the first time in five years.
The Big Green boys finished with 331 points to earn the bronze medal, while Andover Academy grabbed gold with 442 points and Suffield Academy took silver with 341 points. Deerfield’s girls, meanwhile, finished fourth with 228.50 points, just 14.5 points from earning a medal, as Hopkins Academy posted 242 points to earn bronze. Suffield won the crown with 393 points, as Andover was second at 279.
Deerfield’s boys, who captured last year’s pennant, have now produced three championships, as well as two silver medals and now two bronze medals. As for the girls, heading this year’s showdown, which was hosted by Hotchkiss School, they had one silver and three bronze medals to show for their efforts.
On the individual front, both Deerfield squads came up with some star power, as Quinn Smith (14), the recipient of this year’s John A. Pigeon Award, became the Big Green’s second straight Babcock Award winner, which is annually presented to the outstanding male competitor of the meet. Last year, it went to diver Taylor Clough. Smith won top honors by collecting three gold medals and a silver–and setting three meet records along the way.
“Quinn turned in a phenomenal performance during this year’s championships,” said coach John Burke. “ It was simply a fantastic way for him to culminate his career here at Deerfield.”
Quinn led the way by shattering meet marks in both the 200 individual medley in a time of 1:49.14 and the100 freestyle in 44.97. He also helped the 200 freestyle relay to a first-place finish in a meet mark of 1:24.13, along with Matt Hrabchak (15), Miles Smachlo (16) and Doug Vallar, who won this year’s Noel Stace Challenge Cup. Smith also hit gold in the 100 breaststroke (56.44) and played a key role in a second-place showing in the 400 freestyle relay in 3:03:54, with Hrabchak, Smachlo and Alan Lam (15).
“”I’m just happy that I was able to contribute to the team’s success,” said Smith, who will be swimming at Boston University next year. “It’s just been a great experience to have been a part of this tremendous swimming program here at Deerfield for the past four years.
“We went in knowing that we really didn’t have the depth to compete with Andover and Suffield, … the only two teams to beat us during the regular season … but we knew if everyone came through with their best efforts we still had a chance to medal and that’s just what we did. I’m just so happy for Doctor Burke … he’s such an outstanding coach and he really deserved this finish.”
Hrabchak proved to be high on the balloting as well, as he produced three gold-medal performances. One came in the 200 freestyle in 1:39.87, which turned out to be a meet record, while he was also was part of the victorious 200 and 400 freestyle relays. Hrabchak also posted a silver in the 500 free at 4:33.07. In addition to his two relay medals, Smachlo also captured a second spot in the 100 butterfly in 49.10.
“It was a huge team effort,” said Hrabchak of the third-place finish. “Everyone on the team turned in their best efforts of the season and I’m proud of all my teammates. In the end, we just didn’t have quite enough depth to keep up with Andover and Suffield.”
The four records that Deerfield smashed during this year’s championships now makes the Big Green proud owners of nearly half–nine of 24–of the meet’s record-setting performances. In addition to this year’s marks established in the boys 100 and 200 freestyles, the boys 200 IM and the boys 200 free relay, Deerfield has chalked up five other records previously.
Back in 2012, Oscar Miao established the boys 50 free record at 20.76, while Taylor Clough paced the diving with an all-time tally of 547.20. The girls 200 freestyle relay team of Ritchie Howe, Liza Bragg, Jenner McCloud and Julie Hwang, meanwhile, own a best-ever 1:35.65. Bragg then set the standard in the girls 200 IM in 2013, with a time of 2:04.58, as did Hrabchak in the boys 500 free in a clocking of 4:30.24.
“Overall, I’m very happy with the way both meets went this weekend,” said Burke, who has also been tutoring the girls team this winter as its coach, Sonja O’Donnell, has been away on sabbatical. “I’d have to say this was the strongest New England meet I’ve been a part of in my 12 years here at Deerfield. It had plenty of quality swimmers and was one of the most competitive meets I can ever remember.
“As far as where we finished, we finished just about where I expected we would,” added Burke. “On the boys side, we just didn’t have enough depth to keep up with Andover and Suffield and the same was true in the girls competition. We just couldn’t keep up with those deeper teams.
On the girls ledger, Deerfield posted three top-ten finishes in the one-meter diving competition, as Ellie Val (17) finished third with 405.35 points, while Elissa DeNunzio was fourth with a final tally of 366.10 points. Eighth spot went to Natalie DeMuro with 324.05 points.
The Big Green 200 freestyle relay, which consisted of Claire Collins (15), who won this year’s Coach’s Award, Olivia Sheehan (14), Juliette Lee (14) and Ellie Koschik (17), placed second in 1:38.16, while Collins also took second in the 100 breaststroke at 1:07.96. Collins and Lee also combined with Bryn Everson (15) and Rhyan Brode (17) for a fifth-place finish in the 200 medley relay.
Conor Sullivan (15) picked up a bronze medal in the boys 50 freestyle at 21.79, while he finished seventh in the 100 freestyle in 49.03. Will Hrabchak (17), Travis Russell (14), Lam and Vallar were fourth in the 200 yard medley relay. Lam also placed fifth in the 200 freestyle and seventh in the 100 breaststroke. Will Hrabchak was fifth in the 100 backstroke.
In other results, Juliette Lee placed fifth in the 50 freestyle in 25.20, while Bryn Everson (15) wound up seventh in the 200 individual medley with a clocking of 28.20. Olivia Sheehan placed eighth in the 500 freestyle at 5:23.05, Brode came in eighth in the 100 backstroke in 1:00.23. Boys diving, meanwhile, saw Oliver Hill pace the Big Green, finishing 12th with 245.55 points.
Eileen Russell was named the girls Most Improved Swimmer Award.