Big Green Swimming Bests Big Red and Big Blue

By Bob York

For the fourth consecutive year, Deerfield got to hang out and schmoose with the “Big Dogs”–Andover and Exeter–on the medals podium at the New England Prep School Boys Swimming and Diving Championships.

The Big Green finished third this winter, just two points behind Exeter in a torrid battle for second place. Andover, meanwhile, finished atop the final standings.  The Big Blue posted 461 points to lead the way, while Exeter and Deerfield ran aground with 301 and 299 points respectively.

And, according the Big Green coach John Burke, that battle for the silver medal lasted right to the bitter end of the meet … all the way to the official posting of the 400 freestyle relay results.

“Heading into that final event, two things had to happen to allow us to finish in second place,” explained Burke. One was that we needed to finish fourth or better, while Exeter needed to finish third or lower.”

Well, one of those scenarios happened: Deerfield finished third. Exeter, however, finished first–in record time–and the Big Green slipped to third in the final standings.

Deerfield was the Big Dog in 2008 and 2009, as it left the New England championships with a gold medal dangling from around its neck on both occasions. Those title runs saw the Big Green outlast Andover on both occasions by 15 points (332-317) in ’08,and by 20 points (395-375) in ’09. Last winter, the Big Green finished second to the Big Blue (436 points) with 298.

“I’m both very proud and very happy with the way the kids performed both at the championships and all season long,” said Burke of his crew, which warmed up for the New England meet, via an 8-1 regular-season showing and a first-place finish at the Western New England Championship Meet. “After losing Oliver (Lee) to graduation, we lost a lot of points and even though we had done extremely well up until the New England meet, we really didn’t know what to expect once we got there.”

With Lee’s frequent treks to the medal vault now a part of history, Deerfield’s hopes of medaling yet again would depend on a number of swimmers stepping up to fill the void. It’s called depth, and the Big Green showed it had plenty of it. Of the 12 events at the New England championships, Deerfield picked up points in 11 of those competitions. And that showing produced six medals–one gold, three silver and two bronze–as well as a pair of fourth- and fifth-place finishes.

The lone gold medal that Deerfield earned at the championships went to diver Taylor Clough (’13), who finished as chairman of the board for the second straight year after translating 11 dives into 468.85 points for a 78-point cushion over the second-place finisher. Clough led a strong contingent of Big Green divers, as four earned berths in the finals and combined, rang up 36 points for the cause. Kellam Witherington (’12) finished ninth, while Hayden Moreau (’11), who won this year’s Noel Stace Cup, and Wyatt Sharpe (’13) wound up 11th and 16th respectively.

“To have four of your divers finish in the top 16 at the New England championships is a tremendous feat,” said Burke, “and I just can’t say enough about them … they worked hard all season long and it really paid off for them.”

Burke can’t help but smile over the fact that the Fab Four will be returning to the fold next winter and that Clough’s name will be dotting the roster for another two years.

“Taylor’s just a tremendous talent,” said Burke of this whirling dervish, who, in addition to being a two-time New England gold medalist, is undefeated through two years of dual meets. His lone setback to date came during last winter’s Western New England Championships, where he finished third. “He’s performed magnificently over the past two years and it’s going to be fun to see what he does over the next two years.”

Clough’s talents aren’t limited to the New England boarders, however. The day after he won his gold medal, he journeyed to Boston University where he competed in the Northeast Regional tryouts and earned a berth in the National Tournament, which will be held in Knoxville, Tenn., in April.

“I’m very happy with the way things have go so far for me here at Deerfield,” said Clough, who has earned All-America honors his last two years and is optimistic his performances this winter will earn him a third such honor. “I just want to continue to work hard and hope good things continue to happen.”

Oscar Miao (’13) and Henry Lee (’12) headed up the Deerfield point production in the swimming events as both competed in two relays and two individual events. Miao finished the day with 98 points, while Lee collected 97.

The dynamic duo combined with Jack Vallar (’12) and Austin Bridges (’13) to place third in the 400 freestyle relay in 3:10.47, while they swam with Quinn Smith (’14) and Ben Wood (’13) to place second in the 200 medley relay. On the individual front, Miao placed second in the 100 freestyle (47.39) and fourth in the 50 freestyle (21.69). Lee, meanwhile, was second in the 100 butterfly in 51.20 and fifth in the 100 backstroke in 54.20.

The 200 freestyle relay, which consisted of Jonathan Tam (’11), who received the John A. Pigeon Award, and Michael Yang (’11), as well as Smith and Bridges, finished fourth in 1:30.00, while Vallar placed third in the 200 freestyle (1:45.04) and fifth in the 500 freestyle (4:45.05). In the 200 individual medley, Bridges wound up sixth (1:57.42) while Smith was seventh (1:58.54).  In the 100 breaststroke, Smith wound up fifth (1:01.26), while Bridges (1:01.98) and Jamie Pielock (1:02.18) were sixth and ninth respectively, while Wood was 11th in 1:03.29.

The Big Green is losing just six swimmers and two divers off this year’s roster,” so we’re hoping that means there are more good thing to come,” said Burke.