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East Haven junior Hethon Foster and the Greater New Haven Warriors co-op boys’ swimming and diving squad will begin their second year of competition this week. The Warriors feature athletes from East Haven, Guilford, North Branford, and North Haven. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
North Haven senior Cam Cargan and the Greater New Haven Warriors co-op boys’ swimming and diving squad will begin their second year of competition this week. The Warriors feature athletes from East Haven, Guilford, North Branford, and North Haven. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
North Haven student Tanner Powell is leading the Warriors as a senior captain alongside Guilford’s Dan Kamen and Connor Coyne of North Branford this winter. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Sophomore Christian Butler is primed to have another solid year on the diving board for the Greater New Haven Warriors during the 2021 campaign. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Guilford senior Dan Kamen and the Greater New Haven Warriors co-op boys’ swimming and diving squad will begin their second year of competition this week. The Warriors feature athletes from East Haven, Guilford, North Branford, and North Haven. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Guilford student David Zhang is one of eight seniors who is competing for the Greater New Haven Warriors this season. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Guilford senior Alan Penna and the Warriors are looking for more success in the water this year on the heels of a great inaugural campaign last winter. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
North Branford senior Connor Coyne and the Greater New Haven Warriors co-op boys’ swimming and diving squad will begin their second year of competition this week. The Warriors feature athletes from East Haven, Guilford, North Branford, and North Haven. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
The Greater New Haven Warriors (GNH) co-op boys’ swimming and diving team is ready to hit the water for its second year of competition this winter. Although the season will look much different than the 2020 campaign, Head Coach Martha Phelan feels confident that her squad can see continued success in 2021.
GNH features athletes from four towns in the area. The Warriors’ roster includes a collection of swimmers and divers who attend high school in East Haven, Guilford, North Branford, and North Haven. In its inaugural season, GNH posted a record of 8-2, won the SCC Division II title, and finished in fifth place at the Southern Connecticut Conference Championship.
As the team enters a new year, Coach Phelan has confidence that the Warriors can produce another solid season with the talent and depth they have on their squad. It’s a season that was in danger of never taking place in the first place, and Phelan said that everyone appreciates being together again at the pool.
“All of these kids are great kids who are so thankful and have been very verbal about how much they’re enjoying our practices. There’s a sense of gratefulness and appreciation for the opportunity,” said Phelan. “I have this sense that there is such joy, even in just their training. They are enjoying being in the water at practice, no matter how hard the sets are. They are having fun. They appreciate it even more, because the season almost didn’t happen.”
GNH is scheduled to begin its season with a meet against Daniel Hand and Cheshire this week. Much like the recent girls’ swimming season, all of the boys’ competitions will be virtual meets during the winter campaign. Each week, the Warriors will turn in their performances at North Haven’s home site at Walter Gawrych Community Pool, and their opponents will compete at their respective home pools. The teams’ totals will then be compared to one another in order to score out the meet and determine the winner.
Following last year’s success, GNH was bumped up to Division I of the SCC this year. At the end of the regular season, the conference is slated to hold a virtual championship meet like it did for girls’ swimming last fall.
In addition to coaching the Warriors, Phelan is also head coach of the North Haven girls’ swim team, so she’s well-versed in motivating her athletes to perform their best in a virtual setting. With no opponents in the nearby lanes, Phelan’s philosophy is for everyone to focus on achieving their own personal-best performances and then let the chips fall where they may, instead of focusing too much on the different format of the meets.
“I don’t think it will be an issue at all. Even though there won’t be opponents in the pool with us, the kids are still excited and are aware of the traditional rivalries. They’re already talking about our strategy,” Phelan said. “It’s a great way to get them to race against the clock, not just the person next to them, and try to accomplish a goal. It will be different, like it was in the fall, but it’s still a very positive environment. It’s always about setting your personal- bests, and everyone’s journey is different.”
The Warriors are being led by a group of eight seniors who are all returning to the team from last season. GNH’s senior captains are Tanner Powell, who is from North Haven; Dan Kamen, who goes to Guilford; and Connor Coyne, a North Branford student. Powell swims sprint freestyle events and the 100 butterfly; Kaman does sprint and distance freestyle events, as well as the 100 fly and the 200 individual medley; and Coyne swims the 100 fly, the 200 IM, and the 100 breaststroke.
GNH’s other seniors are North Haven students Cam Cargan, Raymond Lewis, and Joe O’Connor, along with Alan Penna and David Zhang of Guilford. Cargan and Lewis swim sprint freestyles, and O’Connor is a diver. Penna does the 200 and 500 freestyles, while Zhang swims the 200 IM and the 100 backstroke for Coach Phelan’s club.
“We have a strong senior class across the board. I can move these seniors around in different events,” said Phelan. “We haven’t been able to have any of the social gathering events that we would traditionally have, but these seniors have really brought the team together and set the tone by making sure that everyone is engaged and following the guidelines. They’re setting a great example for the younger swimmers.”
GNH’s junior class includes two athletes who contributed to a relay victory at last year’s SCC Championship. East Haven student Hethon Foster and Guilford’s Finn Henry are returning for the Warriors after teaming up with Cargan and Guilford graduate Aidan Henry to claim first place in the 400 freestyle relay at the conference meet. Those same four athletes also teamed up to take second place in the 200 freestyle relay. On an individual basis, Foster placed second in the 100 freestyle at SCCs last season, while Finn Henry finished fourth in the 200 freestyle and was fifth for the 500 freestyle.
Foster can swim just about any event, but excels in the 200 IM, the 100 butterfly, and the 100 freestyle. Henry, who recently committed to swim at Yale, where his father Jim is a coach, is another versatile athlete for the Warriors, specializing in the 200 and 500 freestyle events. The other junior on GNH’s roster is East Haven’s Pavlo Melynk, a sprint freestyler.
The Warriors’ sophomore corps includes North Haven’s Christian Butler, a diver who came in sixth place at last season’s SCC Diving Championship. A new sophomore on the squad is East Haven student Brendan Conners, a nationally ranked swimmer whose signature events are the 100 backstroke and 200 IM, although he can also do both sprint and distance freestyle events.
The other sophomores on the team are East Haven’s Dylan Sobolewski (50 and 100 freestyles), Guilford’s Aiden Cohen (100, 200, and 500 freestyles) and Lucas Espinoza (100 backstroke and 200 IM), and North Branford’s Spencer Carroll (100 breaststroke, 100 butterfly, and 200 IM) and Patrick Cucchiarelli (sprint freestyles and 100 backstroke). Carroll is the lone female who competes for the team.
The Warriors are also welcoming a few new freshmen to the fold this winter. GNH’s freshman class consists of Guilford students Carter Bryan (sprint freestyles, 100 backstroke), William Cong (sprint and distance freestyles), Alex Hansen (sprint freestyles, 100 butterfly, and 200 IM), and Sam Mayo (sprint and distance freestyles), along with North Haven’s Victor Zito (sprint freestyles, 100 butterfly).
Coach Phelan is being assisted by diving coach Bob Lewis, who holds that same role with the North Haven girls’ swimming and diving team. Phelan also feels happy that 2020 Guilford graduate Aidan Henry, who was named the SCC Division II Swimmer of the Year last season, is now lending a hand to the Warriors as a volunteer coach.
Having Henry back on the pool deck is just one more reason why Coach Phelan thinks that some wonderful things are in store for the Warriors this year.
“We are excited to have Aidan’s passion and perspective. It’s great to have an extra set of eyes at the pool, and I’m really excited that he’s helping out this year,” Phelan said. “I think that we’ll have a great season.”