South Hadley laps Holyoke Catholic, wins Patriot League title
SOUTH HADLEY — In a winner-take-all meet, the South Hadley girls swim team finished strong to take a 56-38 victory over Holyoke Catholic and repeat as Patriot League champions.
“We looked at it coming in, and on paper, the meet looked a little bit closer than it turned out in the end, but that’s because our girls showed up today,” Tigers coach Nick Rice said. “They really did everything they needed to do.”
The Tigers (11-1-1, 7-0) finished undefeated in the league for the second straight season. The Gaels (8-3, 6-1) took second place just two seasons removed from a 1-9 finish in the Minuteman League.
“All in all, it was a good year. Second in the division, can’t complain,” Holyoke Catholic coach George Plouffe said. “We just got to grind it out this last week and see what happens” in the postseason.
Mackenzie Werenski and Cailey Newton anchored South Hadley’s attack, combining for four first-place finishes and four runner-ups.
“They’ve been doing that all year. That’s kind of what we’ve come to expect when they get up on the block,” Rice said. “They show up to race every single team, best time or not. They don’t let anybody catch them.”
Overall, South Hadley picked up six first-place finishes to the Gaels’ five, but eight second-place finishes to Holyoke Catholic’s three stole the meet for the Tigers.
Werenski and Newton teamed with Hannah Nelson and Jade Thomas to win the opening 200 medley relay in 2 minutes, 5.31 seconds. Werenski (2:05.87) followed with a first-place finish in the 200 freestyle, which she said was her favorite race of the afternoon. Werenski competed against friend and foe Christine Winberg (2:07.07), who took second.
“I thought my 200 free was good,” Werenski said. “I had a better race than I was expecting. One of my friends on the other team was there to swim next to me. ... It’s a different experience to swim against her and not have it count for the same score.”
Werenski took her third top prize in the 100 backstroke, finishing in 1:08.12, ahead of Anna Desimone in 1:11.66 for the Gaels.
Kristyn Popowski led Holyoke Catholic to four first-place finishes in the loss.
Popowski (2:18.04) beat Newton (second, 2:31.05) to the wall in the 200 individual medley. The duo finished 1-2 in the 100 fly with Popowski taking first in 1:02.58 to Newton’s 1:04.87.
Holyoke Catholic won the 200 free relay with Sarah Heavren, Anna Craig, Winberg and Popowski finishing in 1:53.28. Newton, Julia Gange, Ellis Hellyar and Shannon Mitchell were second in 1:54.62.
With Popowski again on the anchor, Holyoke Catholic won the final event, the 400 free relay, in 4:02.94. Werenski led off the Tigers’ relay, which finished second in 4:12.87.
Thomas won the 50 free in 26.68.
Winberg won the 500 free in 5:49.35.
On the boys side, South Hadley took a 41-10 win over Holyoke Catholic.
Only two races were contested by both sides as the Tigers had four swimmers to the Gaels’ two.
Ryan Manniello won the 50 free in 23.47 for the Tigers. Kyle Wolanski (29.15) finished third.
Joshua Guntly won the 100 back in 1:07.43 for Catholic, just ahead of James Stawarz in second place at 1:07.84.