Record-breaking relay pushes MAU to win

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BENNINGTON — Going into the final event of the meet, the Mount Anthony boys swim team held a five-point lead over Monument Mountain in a battle of the top two teams in the Berkshire League.

The meet came down to the 400 free relay, with Mount Anthony needing a first-place finish in the event to ensure a second win over the Spartans in the span of a week.

The Patriots needed a strong performance from all four swimmers on the relay — Devin Deets, Aaron Mattison, Anthony Mazzola and Zach LaForest — and they got it as the quartet broke the school record by almost two seconds to lift MAU to a 90-79 win.

"I wanted to give everything I had in the race," LaForest said. "Our goal was to break the record, I had to get [a time of 55 seconds in my split]. Everyone gave 110 percent."

The team had a goal to break the mark, which had stood at 3 minutes, 56.15 seconds. Deets led off the run, pulling ahead of Monument Mountain's Jimmy Jay Chassi by about a half-length after 100 yards. Mattison, a first-year swimmer for the Patriots, was next, and he blasted through his section to give MAU a lead of about two body lengths.

Mazzola was third and he really extended the advantage, giving MAU a one-half lap lead going into the final swimmer, LaForest, who swam a personal-best time in the event, finished off the race in style in 3:54.40.

The Spartan group of Chassi, Hayden Stein, Jack Glantz and Harry Albert was second in 4:10:60.

"It helps a lot to have teammates like that," said LaForest, talking about watching his teammates extending the lead. "The pressure was still there to break the record. The only thing through my mind was to go as fast as I could."

MAU coach Ann Webster-Lang said she was proud of her team rising to the challenge.

"It's awesome because I know they are reaching within themselves to get to the next level," Webster-Lang said. "I hope through coaching they can do that, they knew they had to pull it out and they had a goal. It was achievable and they made it and I'm so proud of them."

The boys team earned wins from the 200 medley relay, the team of Caden Watson, Mazzola, Deets and LaForest in 1:57.24. LaForest in the 200 free with a time of 2:06.46. Mattison won the 50 free with a time of 25.80 seconds, his best time in the event.

"His energy is incredible, he has a dynamite work ethic," Webster-Lang said. "He comes to practice with a smile, he's really coachable and he's getting faster and faster."

LaForest won his second individual event in the 100 free, setting a personal best time in 54.55 seconds. Mazzola won the 100 breaststroke as well in 1:17.18.

"Every point counts, I try to make sure to have all the lanes full to try and get every point available," Webster-Lang said.

Monument Mountain got a pair of individual wins by Nick Dillon in the 200 IM and 100 butterfly. Albert won the 100 backstroke and Quinn Burnell won the 500 free in 7:02.23.

"The pressure was off, we had the confidence to come in and do our thing and that's swim and race hard," said Monument Mountain coach Jill Svirida. "I like the close meets, it's a switch for our team, we've had talented swimmers for several years, younger swimmers are doing well against a deep team like MAU. We're definitely looking to the postseason for some of the main swimmers that already have Western Mass. qualifying times."

The MAU girls ended up on the wrong end of a 117-52 score, but Paige Marion won both of her individual events, the 50 free and the 100 free, breaking her own school record in each one. In the 50 free, Marion crushed the competition by nearly a second and a half, winning in 26 seconds, topping her record of 26.13 seconds from earlier this season. In the 100, she was almost three seconds better than everyone else, with a time of 56.90 seconds.

"It's cool that she's coming from BBA, it brings the towns together," LaForest said. "It's cool to have her breaking records for us."

Second-place finishes went to Shaana Staab in the 200 free, the 200 free relay with Sarah Ascuitto, Emmy Ascuitto, Staab and Marion, and Lily Spencer in the 100 breast stroke.

"Paige took a couple years off of swimming, so I'm thrilled she's back and swimming with us. She's very coachable, a great leader on the team. she has a beautiful stroke and she executes it perfectly," Webster-Lang said.

The Spartan girls got victories from Jordyn Louison (200 free), Olivia Rubino (200 IM), Molly Flynn (100 fly), Ashley Wellenkamp (500 free), Asa Stone (100 back) and Olivia Raifstanger (100 breast). Wellenkamp finished the 500 free in under six minutes (5:59.69).

The MAU boys remain undefeated at 7-0, while the girls drop to 4-3.


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