Pictured: A sea of bleach-blond swimmers gather around Middletown co-captain Michael Flynn before last week’s home meet against Bristol. (Photos by Andrew Lombardo)

By Andrew Lombardo

MIDDLETOWN – For the 27th consecutive season, the Middletown High boys swimming team clinched a winning record. The Blue Dragons sealed the deal with a 95-89 victory over Bristol Co-Op last week to finish 9-7.

“It’s funny, the last three years we have gone 8-7-1, 9-7, and 9-7, just squeaking by,” Middletown coach Trevor Charles said. “Every year I don’t know how we’re going to continue it, but credit to these guys for stepping up in big situations and filling the shoes of the swimmers before them.”

Throughout the season the Blue Dragons have embraced being the underdog, training and swimming meets with a chip on their shoulder. The improvement the team has made since November was fully necessary if it was to continue the program’s run of winning seasons.

“At the beginning of every season we look at our times and compare them to everyone else’s first meet, and this year we were supposed to go 5-11,” Charles said.

“Looking back, I was really unsure how the season would go,” added senior captain Michael Flynn.

That uncertainty, combined with the pressure of maintaining the streak, motivated the Blue Dragons, pushing each swimmer to test his limits. Numerous swimmers took massive leaps, including seniors Cole Lombardo and Seth Latronica, as well as underclassmen like Andrew Strickland and Zach Krantz.

Matthew Lombardo leads the pack in the 500 freestyle. The senior posted a winning time of 5:14.81.

Once again an underdog against Bristol Co-Op, Middletown’s improved depth and perseverance propelled it to victory.

“It was a really long shot for us to get the win today,” Charles said. “Basically, our kids had to swim best times and their kids couldn’t swim best times.”

However, that intense focus and mentality that the Blue Dragons became accustomed to this season was in full force throughout the meet.

“There was a lot of adrenaline, it being senior night and a chance to extend our streak. We had that in our heads,” said Matthew Lombardo, the team’s other senior captain.

With the meet tied at 39 through the diving portion, Middletown needed its depth to come through yet again. The Blue Dragons took second and third in the next two races before taking a commanding lead following Matthew Lombardo’s victory in the 500 freestyle, followed by teammate Kyle Heidorn in third.

After a victory in the 200 freestyle relay, Flynn added another first-place finish, this time in the 100 backstroke.

In a battle for second place in the 100 breaststroke, Middletown teammates Cole Lombardo (left) and Nick Turri surge to the finish. Lombardo was second by .28 of a second.

“I’m just so relieved,” he exclaimed. “It’s just an incredible feeling. We’ve been working towards this all season, and as a senior I wanted to go out strong and I did.”

After finishes of second by Cole Lombardo and third by Nick Turri in the 100 breaststroke, Middletown finished the final relay with unofficial scoring, having already clinched the meet.

“There were a lot of meets we thought we were going to lose,” Matthew Lombardo said, “but we came together and put in the effort we needed to be successful.”

Charles was ecstatic about the win and his team’s accomplishment.

“I’m telling them to give me everything they’ve got and they’ve been willing to do that,” Charles said, “because a lot of kids don’t and sometimes it takes until their senior year to realize they can give it all, and actually get that much better because of it. It’s all about redefining what your personal limits are, and they absolutely did this year.”

The Blue Dragons will spend the week preparing for the Central Connecticut Conference championship meet, hosted this tear by Meriden’s Platt High on Friday.

Results (Top 3 only):

200 Medley Relay: 1. Bristol Co-op (Gabriel Bartolome, Colton Litwinczyk, Mikel Palaj, Benjamin Stafford), 1:45.06; 2. Middletown, 1:52.83; 3. Bristol, 1:56.25.

200 Freestyle: 1. Michael Flynn (M), 1:47.21; 2. Colton Litwinczyk (B), 1:49.45; 3. Matthew Lombardo (M), 1:55.00.

200 IM: 1. Mikel Palaj (B), 2:02.96; 2. Cole Lombardo (M), 2:12.85; 3. Davis Kroll (B), 2:15.17.

50 Freestyle: 1. Andrew Strickland (M), 23.16; 2. Joshua Mitchell (B), 23.22; 3. Seth Latronica (M), 24.44.

1-Meter Diving: 1. Diego Carrillo (M), 198.35; 2. Joshua Mitchell (B), 190.80; 3. Matt Herrera (M), 164.75.

100 Butterfly: 1. Gabriel Bartolome (B), 58.33; 2. Zach Krantz (M), 1:00.72; 3. Trevor Drescher (M), 1:01.30.

100 Freestyle: 1. Mikel Palaj (B), 49.35; 2. Andrew Strickland (M), 50.35; 3. Seth Latronica (M), 53.29.

500 Freestyle: 1. Matthew Lombardo (M), 5:14.81; 2. Noah Taylor (B), 5:21.33; 3. Kyle Heidorn (M), 5:35.90.

200 Freestyle Relay: 1. Middletown (Michael Flynn, Trevor Drescher, Seth Latronica, Matthew Lombardo), 1:36.93; 2. Middletown, 1:38.83; 3. Bristol Co-op, 1:40.55.

100 Backstroke: 1. Michael Flynn (M), 56.31; 2. Gabriel Bartolome (B), 57.54; 3. Joseph Guerin (B), 1:05.27.

100 Breaststroke: 1. Colton Litwinczyk (B), 1:02.89; 2. Cole Lombardo (M), 1:07.33; 3. Nick Turri (M), 1:07.61.

400 Freestyle Relay: 1. Middletown (Seth Latronica, Matthew Lombardo, Andrew Strickland, Michael Flynn), 3:27.97 (unofficial); 2. Bristol Co-op, 3:29.94; 3. Bristol Co-op, 3:43.58.

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