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By Shawneen Buckley
The Farmington Valley YMCA Tsunami Swim Team completed its summer season with stellar team and individual performances marked by individual, team and state records, state and regional championships, and national achievements. The successful May to August summer season, included short-course (25-yard pool) and long-course (50-meter pool) swim meets requiring exceptional commitment and dedication by coaches and team members.
At the Connecticut Long Course Age Group Championships, held at Wesleyan University, swimmers Alex Beauchene, 14; Trent Hieber, 13; Liam Dunnigan, 14; and Joe Rusnock, 14; crushed the Connecticut state record with a first place finish in the 13-14 year-old boys 200 Freestyle Relay with a time of 1:45:93. This was the first Connecticut state record ever set by any Tsunami swim team.
Tsunami Head Coach Mario Francisco described why the state record was particularly important to him, “The boys sat down together, talked among themselves without me present, and added up all of their times that they needed to swim individually, to swim fast enough to win, and realized that they could break the state record, they decided to go after it. Each one took responsibility for their part. They figured out that, as a team, they could do something bigger, that has never been done before. That one moment is super important to me. People say there is no ‘I’ in team, but there is, because you start by doing your own part. That’s what it is to be a team.”
The 200 Medley Relay boys team also had a first place finish with a time of 1:59:05. Swimming for the Tsunamis were Max Larock, 13; Alex Beauchene; Liam Dunnigan and Joe Rusnock.
Additional highlights included Megan Dunnigan, 12, who was the high-point winner (similar to MVP) for her age group at the Conn. Long Course Age Group Championships and swept all of her backstroke events with first place finishes at the Eastern Zone (Virginia to Maine) Long Course Championships. Her smooth and powerful backstroke left the rest swimming in her wake in the 50, 100, and 200 meter events. Her best times this season were 31:54 for the 50M backstroke, 1:07:57 for the 100M backstroke, and 2:25:56 for the 200M backstroke. She finished the season in the top 16 nationally and first in Connecticut, and qualified for YMCA Nationals.
For a swimmer, qualifying for YMCA Nationals is a lofty goal and the same is true for the Tsunami Swim Team. In 2017, for the first time ever, the men’s relay team qualified for the YMCA Long Course Nationals in the 200 Medley, with swimmers Chris Weber, 16, backstroke; Joe Rusnock, breaststroke; Alex Beauchene, butterfly; and Grant Kimble, 18, freestyle, qualifying with a time of 1:54:56. At YMCA Nationals, the relay team, with Liam Dunnigan swimming for Grant Kimble, was the youngest men’s relay team competing at the meet.
Individuals who competed at YMCA Nationals in their individual events included Chris Weber, Lilia Dunnigan, 16; Megan Dunnigan and Alex Beauchene.
The Tsunamis also clinched the Yankee Cluster League Championship, where swimmers of all levels compete for points for their team. This YMCA league event is particularly challenging because it requires all swimmers to be at their best and fighting for the team victory. Every swimmer is needed to secure the title and this year, once again, the Tsunamis prevailed.
Coach Francisco reflected on this past season with pride when asked about season highlights. “It is so nice to see our team growing to be one of the biggest and best teams in the area, both in and out of the pool. Three seniors from our team are moving on to swim for their college team. I am incredibly proud of them and all of our swimmers.”
Congratulations to Tsunami graduates Grant Kimble of Granby who will swim for Roger Williams University, Alyssa Pacewicz of Suffield who will swim for Skidmore College, and Christian Malone of Canton who will swim at William Peace University.