LINCOLN – Head coach Tom Diiorio doesn’t care too much about dual-meet records. When it comes to his Lincoln High boys’ and girls’ teams, his main concern is that his athletes are swimming well with a fair share of them qualifying for next month’s state championships.
Both those objectives are being met this season.
For the first time in three years, the Lady Lions will be sending a team to the states by qualifying in a handful of individual events and the relays. The boys’ squad has also performed solidly with a few of its individuals and relays having a chance to place high at the state level.
In Thursday afternoon’s Division II contest with Westerly at the Boys & Girls Club of Cumberland/Lincoln, the Lions earned a split against their rivals. The boys (2-1) defeated the Bulldogs, 49-40, while the girls (3-2) dropped a 53-36 decision.
“We don’t even look at (the scores),” said Diiorio, about his girls’ squad. “It’s just exciting to see the first-place winners. We see girls that are qualifying for the state. We see girls trying. I am proud of the girls the way they swim.”
The Lady Lions captured just four events in yesterday’s meet, but still turned in some impressive performances. This year’s team is loaded with freshmen with 11 on the 16-member roster. Two of those ninth-graders copped gold with Melissa Gianetti taking the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1 minute, 19.25 seconds and Nicole Moneghan winning the 100 breaststroke with a 1:12.55 clocking. The talented pair was also on victorious relay squads with Gianetti combining with freshman Myranda Nault, junior Emily Katz and Moneghan to capture the 400 freestyle relay (4:38.84) and Moneghan also swimming a leg on the first-place 200 medley relay (2:14.19) of freshman Casey Gagnon, freshman Eliz Kuscu and Katz.
Moneghan and Gianetti are among a long list of their teammates that also compete for the Cumberland-Lincoln Penguins - the youth swim team of the Boys and Girls Club.
“Most of this team here, they swim seven, eight months a year,” Diiorio said. “That’s where the difference is between the girls and boys. The boys can fight through it. They don’t have to swim seven or eight months a year. There is a lot more competition with the girls, a lot more competition. There is a lot more girls that swim and if you don’t compete seven months out of the year, at least, besides the high school team, you stand no chance.”
Gianetti has already qualified for the states in the 100 breaststroke and is just a few seconds from doing the same in the 200 freestyle.
“I like my freshman year,” she said. “It has been fun so far. I have met a lot of new people. I have met a lot of friends on the swim team. It’s been a good year so far.”
The boys’ meet was a nail-biter after the first six events with the Lions holding a 27-23 lead. The turnaround point occurred on the very next event when senior Eric Brown led a 1-2 finish in the 500 freestyle, achieving a personal best time of 5:59.24. Sophomore Austin Martell placed second to give the Lions a 34-24 advantage.
“That was a very pleasant surprise,” Diiorio said. ‘That’s where we won the meet, right there. We went up by (10) points. That’s when we saw that they didn’t have anything left. They had two of their (100) backstrokers get DQ’d, and we got (first) in that, too.”
Sophomore Cameron Kimball won the 100 backstroke with a time of 1:13.77 and was on the victorious 200 medley relay squad of senior Alex Carlson, junior Dan Cameron and senior Justin Kelly. Cameron also copped the 100 breaststroke.
Carlson and Kelly are two swimmers that have potential for a top finish at the state meet at the University of Rhode Island the weekend of Feb. 25-26. Both looked strong just weeks before the tapering off stage for the championships.
Carlson cracked 24 seconds for the first time this season by winning the 50 freestyle with a 23.97 clocking. He came back later and was edged at the finish in the 100 freestyle by the Bulldogs’ Kyle Rohdin, who won with a time of 54.26.
Carlson held about a half-body length over Rohdin for the first two laps. It turned into a neck-and-neck affair in the closing stages with Rohdin’s longer arm appearing to make the difference.
“The kid he was going against is an exceptional swimmer,” Diiorio pointed out. “I said if he holds on here that would be great. If he doesn’t, he’ll still swim one of his best times.”
“At the end I was a little tired, but I thought I had him at the end,” Carlson said. “I was trying to push and push. I was trying to lengthen my stroke out so that way I could use it to my advantage at the end. He was much taller than I was so he probably had just an extra length at the end.”
Carlson will swim in multiple events and relays at the state meet, but has his best chance to place is in the 50 freestyle, an event he finished among the top 10 last year. The event has a number of athletes that have clocked a time in the 23-second range.
“I am just trying to get into the top heat,” Carlson said. “I know if I have more competition, I will push myself harder…I am hoping to get at least the top five this year.”
Besides his effort on the 200 medley, Kelly earned an individual crown in the 200 individual medley with a time of 2:15.55. He was third in the 50 freestyle.
As a junior last year, Kelly finished seventh in the 100 butterfly. This year he will be focusing on that event as well as the 500 freestyle.
“I have a good chance at getting second (in the 500),” Kelly said. “There’s not a lot of people that can swim that. The best guy has like a 4:40, but after that they all have about the same time as me. I am hoping that I can get my time down. In that meet, I can come up big.”
At the recent Read/Watmough Invitational at Roger Williams University, a meet that also attracted schools from Massachusetts, Kelly finished third overall in the 500 (5:22) and was fourth overall in the 200 freestyle (1:55).
“He’s my Energizer bunny,” Diiorio said. “He just goes and goes and goes. He does anything and it’s just all-out fast. I wish I had two or three kids like him. There are never any pains. There are never any aches. He’s amazing.”
Lincoln 49, Westerly 40
200 medley relay – Lincoln (Alex Carlson, Dan Cameron, Justin Kelly, Jason Kimball) 1:55.56
200 IM – Kelly, L, 2:15.55
50 freestyle – Carlson, 23.97
500 freestyle – Eric Brown, 5:59.24
100 backstroke – Cameron Kimball, 1:13.77
100 breaststroke – Cameron
Westerly 53, Lincoln 36
200 medley relay – Lincoln (Casey Gagnon, Eliz Kuscu, Nicole Moneghan, Emily Katz) 2:14.19
100 breaststroke – Moneghan, 1:12.25
100 breaststroke – Melissa Gianetti, 1:19.25
400 freestyle relay – Lincoln (Myranda Nault, Moneghan, Katz, Gianetti) 4:38.84