Saturday January 26, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- In order to keep the Pittsfield boys swim team from finishing the regular season with a perfect record, things were going to have to go perfectly down the stretch for host Taconic.

Things may not have been perfect for the Braves, but it was pretty close. Taconic rallied from 10 points down with three events to swim and eked out an 86-84 win on Friday at the Pittsfield Family YMCA with first- and third-place finishes in the 400-meter freestyle relay.

"It's exactly what happened last year," said Taconic's Lucas Benjamin. "I was so excited. We knew how important this was."

For Benjamin, it was a very successful end to what turned out to be a pretty pressure-packed afternoon. He finished third in the 500 freestyle and followed that up with a second in the 100 backstroke before turning around one event later to swim the anchor leg for Taconic's second 400 free relay team.

"I was exhausted, but I knew my team was much more important than myself," he said. "I was much more willing to push myself."

The excitement of the final relay was set up, in part, by Taconic's George Sommerville. Sommerville, who won the 100 freestyle early in the race, won the 100 breaststroke, leading a 1-2 Taconic finish that cut Pittsfield's lead to 80-76. Sommerville came right back to swim the anchor leg of the final relay.

"For the breaststroke, I went all out. I've done the breaststroke and the 400 free all the time," said Sommerville. "I'm just kind of used to it, I guess."

When Sommerville took to the blocks for his relay leg, a Pittsfield team was more than half a pool length ahead. The Taconic standout hit the water and immediately started making up time.

"After the first turn, I noticed that I could see him in the corner of my eye which is on the turn," said Sommerville. "If I could see him, I'm able to keep my turn."

Sommerville blew past the field and touched the wall in 4 minutes, 19.6 seconds. That was more than six seconds faster than Pittsfield's No. 1 team.

But Taconic still needed to finish third in order to get the two points to push past PHS.

"Every time I came back to the beginning, I could see him. On the very last lap, I could see I was right next to him," said Benjamin. "I got a small lead. When I got that small lead, I committed myself. No breathing, just push right to the wall."

Benjamin and his teammates finished in 4:52.55, a hundredth of a second faster than the second Pittsfield relay team. That gave Taconic the win.

Jeremy Haven also won twice for Taconic, taking the 50 and 100 freestyle. Pittsfield's Ken Black won the 200 and 500 freestyle.

"There were some very close races all day. Right from the first event, it came down to touch-out after touch-out after touch-out," said Pittsfield coach Jim Harrington. "Today, Taconic got a few more of those touch-outs than we did."

That wasn't the case in the girls meet, in which Pittsfield beat Taconic 94-75. The score was 8-6 after the medley relay when PHS outscored Taconic 11-5 in the 200 freestyle to pull ahead with a lead the Generals never relinquished.

Gillian Campbell won Taconic's only two races, taking the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke.

"We set the tone right from the first event, and we went right on from there," said Harrington. "There were really no places where we fell short."

Three Pittsfield swimmers had individual double wins. Hannah King won the 50 freestyle and 100 breaststroke, Theresa Murphy won the 100 butterfly and 200 IM, while Jesse March won the 200 and 500 freestyles.

To reach Howard Herman:
hherman@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman.