Ellie Field is 50 free champ; Berkshire swimmers thrive against best in Central/Western Massachusetts
SPRINGFIELD — Ellie Field needed some help from her Wahconah swimming teammates when first getting into and trying out her new mid-length skin-tight racing suit in early February. Sunday morning, though, if only for less than half a minute, Field was on her own.
And for the second consecutive winter, Field needed only herself to become a sectional champion.
The Hoosac Valley senior, swimming now under the Wahconah co-op and a Warriors cap, claimed first place in the 50 yard freestyle, repeating in the sprint event that saw her share the top podium spot a year prior.
"She did awesome. Last week she took almost two seconds off both those races, and when you take that much off a short race, it's quite incredible," said Wahconah coach Steve Kolis. "She'll be seeded quite well for states."
Field's 24.84 saw no equal in Western Massachusetts, nor the central part of the state, which was combined with the west this season.
"It think it's huge going into states, especially with this being the first Western/Central," said Field. "Putting my nerves aside, that's a really good time for me. It feels really good."
The introduction of central high schools into the meet did cast forth a rival for Field to contend with, in Northbridge's Samantha Kilcoyne. The top seed in the 50 posted a 25.01 to place second. However, the two met again a couple events later in the same heat of the 100 freestyle. There, the neck-and-neck race lasted all four lengths of the pool at Springfield College's Art Linkletter Natatorium. Field poked ahead, but Kilcoyne was right there. In the end, the Northbridge junior touched two-tenths of a second before Field could label herself a double winner. Kilcoyne's 53.90 was the winning time.
"I tried my best to not focus on her and swim my own race. I know she's really good and has a good final 50," said Field. "It was up to me. I'll see her next week at states."
Berkshire County sent a host of student-athletes to the meets in Springfield, and Field wasn't alone in finding herself climbing steps to the podium.
Monument Mountain freshman Asa Stone impressed in her sectional debut, rising from her seed times in both the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke to grab two runner-up finishes.
"I was really excited, there was such an adrenaline rush, it was just excitement to be around teammates and just being here," said Stone. "In club I've done some high stuff, but I've never done this well, so it's pretty amazing.
"When I started this year I was so excited, I'd been waiting to get on the high school team for so long, it's just been a great experience."
With a strong lane draw in the fly, Stone scorched to a 1:00.28 second-place time. In the backstroke she led four Spartans swimmers with a 1:00.74 from Lane 2.
"I have complete confidence in her. Asa is such an amazing young woman and athlete. She's a racer and a fighter, so I knew she was going to be good up against strong competition like this," Monument coach Jill Svirida said. "I'm very pleased with how she performed and the times she put up."
Teammates Anna Rubino, Olivia Rubino and Jordyn Louison also competed in the backstroke, and all eventually got on podiums as a part of Monument's three relay squads.
Stone led off the opening 200 medley relay team — with Olivia Raifstanger, Aubrey Blanchard and Louison — which placed fourth overall in 1:37.26.
In the 200 freestyle relay, it was Louison off the top followed by Olivia Rubino, Anna Rubino and Blanchard in the anchor position. That squad mirrored a fourth place finish in 1:46.09.
With one race to go, Blanchard was tabbed by Svirida to anchor one more time.
"It's a new place for me in a relay, I led off last year, and I just wanted to come home for my teammates and pay off all that hard work," said Blanchard. "Usually you can't hear cheering while swimming, but it was definitely so loud in here I could hear it. That was exciting to know."
In the 400 relay, Anna Rubino, Olivia Rubino and Stone gave way to Blanchard to bring it home with a burner. The Spartans climbed one spot into third, behind only overall No. 1 and 2 Longmeadow and Minnechaug — in reverse order — and touched in 3:49.63.
The Spartans picked up more points with a podium from Olivia Raifstanger, who rose to the occasion in a big moment to qualify for next weekend's state meet in the 100 breaststroke, nailing down a 1:13.50.
"It's been a goal of mine since last year. It was really rewarding to finally make it this year," said Raifstanger. "I think having my teammates and coaches here, knowing that I wanted it so bad and having them cheer me on was something that helped me a lot."
The Rubinos swam side-by-side in the 100 freestyle, with Anna pacing at 58.17, and Olivia in at 58.60.
With the help of Raifstanger's score, Monument managed to place fifth overall in the team standings with 150 points.
"I wasn't really worried about our overall score this year, because I wasn't sure what it would be like with the West/Central change," said Svirida. "It was nice to have the pressure off, and I'm absolutely thrilled with the way they finished. I couldn't be happier, that last relay especially. 100 percent best times today, you can't ask for more than that.
"All of them are just superstars."
Wahconah was 18th with 37 points, while Pittsfield was 24th with 10.
The Generals got strong performances from Szofia Lewis and Jordan Bradford in individual competitions, both of whom will also be continuing on to the state meet.
"For the breaststroke, I'm pretty happy with the speed, I just have a couple minor details with my turns and finish I need to focus on," said Lewis, who qualified a week prior at Berkshire Individuals with a 1:14.30 — she swam a 1:14.54 Sunday. "I was pretty happy today, it's a good transition to states.
"I was really glad I qualified last week, because I would've put a lot of pressure on myself today."
Bradford excels at the distance races, competing in both the 200 and 500 freestyle.
"It's been OK. The relays at these meets are a lot of fun," said the sophomore who finished her 500 in 5:46.64. "The 500 was a little disappointing, I didn't get the time I wanted, but it was still an OK race for me. The 200 was one of my all-time best times, but I have another chance to get better at states."
Monument's Ashley Wellenkamp completed the 500 in 5:44.33. Lewis and Raifstanger were joined at breaststroke by Taconic's Delaney Ivas (1:18.10) and Pittsfield's Abby Marsh (1:18.73).
Complete official results from the girls and boys Central/Western Mass. Swimming championships were not available at press time. Check back tomorrow for a full recap.
Mike Walsh can be reached at email@example.com, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter and 413-496-6240.
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