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East Haven sophomore Brendan Conners is making huge contributions in a variety of events for the Greater New Haven Warriors boys’ swimming and diving team this winter. (Photo courtesy of Brendan Conners )
By the age of three, Brendan Conners was already in the swimming pool. After setting a state record in 2018, Brendan realized how much he loved the sport, and now the East Haven resident is bringing that passion to the pool as a member of the Greater New Haven Warriors co-op squad.
Brendan is in his first year with the Warriors—a boys’ swimming and diving team that features athletes from East Haven, North Haven, Guilford, and North Branford. A sophomore, Brendan is racking up the victories for a team that’s on its way to another great campaign.
Brendan started swimming in East Haven as three year-old under the tutelage of longtime swim coach Jose Bedoya. Brendan’s parents, Katie and RJ, initially signed him up so he could learn water safety skills. However, Brendan soon realized that he wanted to accomplish a lot more in the pool.
“My parents signed me up for swim lessons when I was three, just for water safety. As soon as I got in the water, I enjoyed it a lot more,” says Brendan. “Some of my friends were old enough to start competing. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to get good enough to join a team with them.”
When he was seven, Brendan joined the Soundview YMCA Stingrays team in Branford. At age 12, he started competing for the Bulldog Swimming team based in New Haven with head coach and former Olympian Adriana Marmolejo. Something clicked for Brendan when he joined the Bulldogs, and he knew that he was going to be swimming for the long term.
In 2018, Brendan competed at the Connecticut Age Group Championships at Chelsea Piers in Stamford. Brendan swam the 100-yard backstroke in 55.81 seconds to break the state’s age-group record of 56.16 in the event. He still holds that record to this day.
“That was something I wanted the whole season. That whole season, I saw a lot of progress,” Brendan says. “Up until that point, we only really went to small meets. When I joined Bulldogs, we went to bigger meets, and I did really well. It gave me the motivation to give that extra push. I was elated. I was a little nervous I’d never be able to do it again. It just fueled me more.”
Brendan is still a member of the Bulldogs and plans to continue competing with the team through high school. When he was a freshman at East Haven, Brendan considered joining the Greater New Haven Warriors, but decided to focus on the season with his club team.
However, following a long layoff after contracting COVID-19, Brendan decided to join the Warriors this year as a way to get back into shape. Brendan already knew several people on the team and, with his wealth of experience in the water, the sophomore made a smooth transition to the high school circuit.
“It’s a lot easier for me, because I know a lot of the kids there. It hasn’t been that much of a transition. We race a lot more, even though it’s virtual. It’s really fun,” says Brendan. “It’s a different vibe from club swimming. For some kids, their first year can be daunting. Swimming is hard to get into. But with our group, there’s a lot of nice kids. Everybody does their best to make everyone feel included.”
Brendan is proving a force for the Warriors as a sophomore this season. In the team’s recent virtual meet against Amity, Shelton, and Xavier, Brendan took first place in the 200 individual medley, the 100 freestyle, and the 100 backstroke to help the Warriors sweep the meet.
“It’s pretty cool, especially because there are a lot of kids with a lot more high school swimming experience,” Brendan says of his early success. “It has been fun. It’s a lot less pressure than club swimming. It’s fun to just get up there and race.”
This year marks the first season that Warriors’ Head Coach Martha Phelan has worked with Brendan. In a short span of time, Phelan has seen Brendan make a huge impact for the team, while helping the Warriors storm out to a record of 6-1.
“Adding Brendan to our roster had an immediate impact and changed our ability to create points at dual-meets. Brendan is an elite level swimmer with the ability to compete in multiple events,” says Phelan. “Brendan comes to the team as a sophomore, but has easily transitioned to our team. I am grateful for the talent he brings to the team and have enjoyed getting to know him. Brendan is respectful and a team player.”
One of Brendan’s goals as a swimmer is to make the Olympic Trials. Later this month, he will compete at a qualifying event in Florida. Brendan has been dreaming of the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Trials and feels grateful to potentially have that chance.
After jumping in the pool as a youngster, it didn’t take long for Brendan to fall in love with the sport of swimming. It also didn’t take Brendan long to display the talents that allowed him to become a state record holder. Whether he’s competing with the Bulldogs or the Warriors, Brendan loves swimming and wants to keep getting better in every event.
“It makes me incredibly proud,” Brendan says of being a swimmer. “I think there’s a little bit of a stigma, seeing as it’s not as big of a sport as football or track, but I really enjoy it. I think it’s amazing the things your body can do.”