Cardinals are in the swim
If things unfold at today's NHIAA Swimming and Diving Championships the way Bishop Guertin of Nashua coach Brendan McLaughlin hopes they do, the BG boys will win their fifth consecutive Division I state championship. The BG girls will be celebrating a state title as well.
The BG boys and girls are among the favorites at this year's Division I meet, which is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. at the University of New Hampshire's Swasey Pool. The Division II meet will kick things off at 10:30 a.m., and the diving championships will be held concurrently with the divisional meets.
"It could definitely happen," McLaughlin said. "They know what it will take to win on both sides. It's just a matter of who swims the best. Coaching can only take you so far, then they have to do it themselves."
The state meets, originally scheduled for Friday (diving) and Saturday (Division I and Division II swimming), were postponed to today because of the winter storm. The Meet of Champions, which was scheduled for today, was canceled.
The Exeter boys may provide BG will its stiffest challenge. The Blue Hawks won a dual meet against the Cardinals by six points last month.
Senior Sam Root, senior Matthew Pucksta and junior Brett Seeley-Hacker are some of BG's top swimmers. Seeley-Hacker won the 100-meter freestyle and 200 freestyle at last year's Division I meet. Pucksta was the 2012 state champion in the 100-yard breaststroke.
In addition, BG's David Pfeifer has won the diving championship in each of the last two years.
Sophomore Zach Bishop (200 freestyle, 500 freestyle), junior James Mundy (50 freestyle, 100 freestyle) and sophomore Kellen Gray (100 backstroke, 100 freestyle) are some of Exeter's top swimmers.
"Honestly, I think Exeter is the favorite," McLaughlin said. "They're very talented and they're very deep, as are we. It's definitely going to be a dogfight. The girls side is more open."
The Dover girls won last year's Division I title. Julia DeGregorio (100 butterfly, 200 individual medley), Tessa Chapman (200 individual medley, 100 butterfly) and Sarah Wydra (100 freestyle, 100 backstroke) are among the reasons Dover is one of the favorites again this year.
BG, Pinkerton Academy of Derry and Exeter figure to challenge Dover for this year's championship. BG returned all but one swimmer from a team that finished third in last year's Division I meet.
"In my eyes it's going to come down to the last relay," McLaughlin said. "I wouldn't count out Exeter or Pinkerton."
Other individuals to keep an eye on are Nashua North's Nathan Garner, who won the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly at last year's Division I meet; and Alvirne of Hudson's Rebecca Dionne, who has accepted a scholarship to swim at Savannah (Ga.) College.
"There are a lot of good female swimmers, but Becca does stand out," said Alvirne coach Sean McLaughlin, Brendan's brother. "She'll compete in the 50 freestyle and the 100 freestyle (today), but she's also a backstroker. She should do very well."
The Oyster River boys and St. Thomas girls prevailed in last year's Division II meet.
Oyster River freshman Matt Jones and Souhegan of Amherst sophomore Tyler Howard are among the top swimmers in Division II. Howard holds the school record in the 500 freestyle (4 minutes, 59.54 seconds).
Gilford freshman Rebecca Cook and Plymouth junior Kersten Dirrane will be two of the top girls competing in the Division II meet. Cook broke the meet record in the 200 freestyle (1:57.71) at the Bobcat Invitational - held at UNH - earlier this year, and Dirrane broke the state record in the 100-yard breaststroke in last year's Division II meet.
Athletes can compete in a maximum of two individual events and two relays, or one individual event and three relays in the state meet. The top 12 finishers in each event will earn points toward the team championship. The relays are worth twice as many points as individual events.