Patriot boys score Division crown


BENNINGTON -- Clinching the boys swim meet with the 400-yard freestyle relay still remaining during Tuesday's Berkshire League matchup between Mount Anthony Union High School and Wahconah, MAU coach Anna Swierad sent out her relay to compete unopposed.

"I wanted to seal the deal," Swierad said.

Most of the sealing had been done before that, as Ryan Spencer and Zach LaForest each were double winners in an 90-60 win over the Warriors -- and in the process, clinching the Northern Division championship for the second year in a row.

"We worked really hard this year, we had a couple guys with injuries and they had to work through it," said Austin Ulrich. "This year we had a lot of new guys and ever since last year, this is the closest to winning the division."

Spencer, a strong swimmer the entire season, scored victories in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100 backstroke, while LaForest swept the sprints -- the 50 freestyle and the 100 free.

The 200 IM was extremely close throughout between Spencer and Wahconah's Kyle Miller, with each swimmer trading the lead in the first three legs. Spencer trailed heading into the final leg, the freestyle, making up ground with every stroke and out-touching Miller at the line to win in 2:19.19, one one-hundredth of a second ahead. In fact, Spencer's 200 IM time was his best time in the event by more than four seconds.

Spencer won by eight seconds in the 100 backstroke, his best event.

LaForest zoomed through the sprints, winning the 50 in 26.79 seconds and the 100 in 1:01.50.

The race was so close against Wahconah's Eric Desautelle that the two judges differed on the winner with the naked eye. It was only when they went to the stopwatches that LaForest was found to be the winner by one-tenth of a second.

"To me, it was almost too close to call, I thought it was a tie," Swierad said. "They went with the time and Zach got it, they were neck and neck."

Austin Ulrich also out-touched his opponent in the 100-yard breaststroke, Ryan Dufour. The pair seemed to hit the line at the same time, with Ulrich coming out ahead by 1/100th of a second -- 1:23.24 to 1:23.25 -- to gain valuable points.

"There were a lot of touchouts today, and the races could have gone either way," said Wahconah coach David Lussier, who only has five boys on the team. "Times were dropped today, they performed well to get those best times."

The 200 free relay team of Spencer, Brian Steinhoff, Ulrich and LaForest was runner-up by about a third of a second in 1:50.56, their fastest time this year by five seconds.

"They were pumped to win tonight," Swierad said.

The backstroke was also a key event as the outmanned Warriors could only send out one swimmer -- Mitchell Salvini -- while MAU had three, including Brian Steinhoff and Jacob Rantilla.

In the end for the 11-man team, the difference was back-to-back division titles.

"A lot of people said that the swim team for boys isn't much, but we prove everyone wrong," Steinhoff said.

On the girls side, Mount Anthony's sheer numbers were the difference as the Patriots cruised to a 115-55 win.

Double winners included Emily Barlow in the 200 and 500 free, Phebe Hall in the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke and Kate Ahearn in the 50 and 100 free. Jena Staab won her main event, the 100 fly as well.

For Wahconah, Michaela Defoe won the 100 backstroke in 1:12.62, the exact time, down to the hundredth of a second, that she needed to qualify for Western Mass.

"That was a goal we set and she dropped her time by a second and a half," Lussier said. "She's a freshman, to reach sectionals in your freshman year is great."

The final home meet of the year is Thursday.

"They all stepped it up tonight, got best times and did better than the last time we swam against Wahconah," Swierad said. "I'm very proud of this team."


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