The WesthillStamford co-operative boys swimming team has crowned state champions, produced college standouts and even had a former member reach the U.S. Olympic trials. It has not, however, won a Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference championship. Until this year.
The Vikings tied Greenwich for the regular season championship after both teams finished with 10-1 records. Greenwich defeated Westhill in its regular-season matchup, 95-91, on Jan. 13. Ridgefield stunned the Cardinals, 94-92, on Jan. 19. Ridgefield lost to Westhill and Darien, leaving the Vikings and the Cardinals as the league co-champions.
"I thought coming into the season we had a shot to win,'' coach Rick Lewis said. "I was disappointed when we lost to Greenwich by a few points. I was surprised Greenwich lost to Ridgefield, and shocked that Ridgefield lost to Darien. I think it just means that the league meet is going to be wide open."
Swimmers plunge into the league championship meet this week, beginning with the trials Tuesday at Greenwich. The finals are Thursday. Westhill will host the diving finals on Wednesday. New Canaan will also be another title contender. Since 1971, New Canaan (2007) is the only team other than Greenwich to walk away with the league title. "This is the most teams ever that had a chance to win something,'' said Lewis, who has been Westhill's coach for more than 30 years.
Like Greenwich teams from the past, Westhill/Stamford has been doing it with depth throughout its lineup. It's conceivable, Lewis said, his team could not crown an individual champion and still win the team championship. The team is led by seniors Andrew Hendrickson, Ion Cebotaru and Derek D'Ambra, while a strong class of underclassmen has provided points in nearly every event.
"I'm surprised at how deep we are, and we are going to need it,'' Lewis said. "We need them to step up. Every race is going to be important. Diving has been one the keys for us. I don't think we've been outpointed in diving in any meets this year. We went 1-2-3 against Ridgefield and without that, we would've lost."
Westhill /Stamford finished third in Class LL last year, and second in 2007. Dan Madwed (Michigan) swam in the 2008 U.S. Trials and Ryan Cutter (Harvard), a three-time all-state swimmer, is an emerging star for nationally ranked Harvard University. Their teams never won a league or state title. This year's team has a chance to add to the legacy they helped create.
"It's never won paper,'' Lewis said. "You still have to go out and swim. We've never been in the position before. Now we'll find out if we can step up and do it."
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