Boys swim makes history at Hock championships

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CHS boys swim team members pose for a photo after taking 2nd at the league meet. (Dennis Mitchell photo)

CHS boys swim team members pose for a photo after taking 2nd at the league meet. (Dennis Mitchell photo)

It was another history-making performance for the CHS boys swim team as the Bulldogs, led by once-in-a-generation talent Sebastian Melendez and a stellar supporting cast, set a new program mark with a second-place finish at last weekend’s Hockomock Championship meet in Milford.

After going undefeated (8-0) against league opponents this season and wrapping up its first-ever Davenport Division title, the Canton boys flirted with No. 1 overall at various points on Sunday, eventually settling for the runner-up position behind defending champion King Philip. Canton finished the day with 256 points — 23 shy of the Warriors’ team total but ahead of tough competitors like Milford (251) and Franklin (250).

Melendez, a two-time state champion, was utterly dominant in his two individual events, blowing past KP’s Tyler Stringfellow in both the 200- and 500-yard freestyle for the second year in a row. His 4:46.23 in the 500 free was a new personal best and was more than seven seconds faster than Stringfellow’s second-place effort.

Melendez also helped lead two Canton relay teams to gold — the 200 free and 400 free — along with fellow state qualifiers Owen Guerini, Sean Mitchell, and freshman Adrian Bankowski.

Mitchell had a big day for himself as well with a second-place finish in the 50 free and a fourth-place finish in the 100-yard breaststroke. Guerini added a pair of top-six finishes — fifth in the 50 free and sixth in the 100 free — and Matt Gilmore shaved almost three seconds off his previous best time in the 100-yard butterfly en route to a sixth-place performance.

Other point scorers for the boys team at the league meet included Bankowski in the 50 free and 500 free, Diego Ferstler in the 50 free and 100 free, Chris Milne in the breaststroke, and Justin Diep in the 100 fly. A second 200 free relay team, although not counted in the scoring due to meet rules, posted the fourth-best time behind Diep, Gilmore, Nick Rousseau, and Ferstler.

For most of the meet, head coach Cheryl Cavanaugh said the Bulldogs were oblivious to their place on the team leaderboard and were instead focused on collecting personal-best times. She said they were shocked when Canton was announced as the leader at one point late in the competition, although they did not alter their approach.

“We were all so surprised because we were just out looking for personal bests,” she said. “But I wouldn’t have changed the lineup even if I knew we were in contention.”

In the end, Cavanaugh said the team fell short because they were not strong enough in the backstroke; still, she said everyone was “ecstatic” with the second-place finish. “All the boys were doing great times and they swam like crazy,” said Cavanaugh.

Among those who established new personal bests at the meet were Paul Seignarbieux (200 free, 50 free, 500 free), Ben Guerini (200IM, 50 free, 100 back), and Shayne Graham (50 free, 100 free). Ryan Cohen shaved seven seconds off his personal best in the backstroke, while Thomas Cahill and Colin Messinger set new bests in that event as well. Brendan Matoulis had a personal best in the 100 free, and Mitchell, Chris Milne, and Devin Kelly set new marks in the breaststroke.

In the girls league championships held one day earlier, Canton took 10th out of 12 teams with Maddie Nourse scoring a top-six finish in the 50 free. Other point scorers for the lady Bulldogs included Brianna Mitchell in the 500 free and 200 free, Dasol Lee in the 50 free and 100 free, Brianna Gilchrist in the 200IM, and Briana Murphy in the breaststroke. Canton also scored points in all three relays with eighth-place finishes for the 200 medley (Mitchell, Murphy, Nourse, Lee) and 400 free (Nourse, Mitchell, Emily Pham, Lee) and a 10th-place finish for the 200 free (Rebecca Guerrero, Pham, Kaitlyn Wong, Gilchrist).

Caroline McKenna also had a big day as she knocked six seconds off her time in the 500 free and five seconds off in the 200 free. Other solid performers for the girls included Julia Burkowsky, Emily Beatty, Malia Claiborne, and Nicole Pagel.

With the regular season now complete, both CHS swim teams will turn their attention to the postseason, starting with the central/south sectionals this weekend at MIT. Boys qualifiers include Melendez, Mitchell, Guerini and Bankowski as well as all three relays, while girls qualifiers include Nourse, Mitchell and the 200 free relay.

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