Clippers build for the future

Clippers build for the future

Cumberland High freshman Thomas Brennan gets ready to finish the 100-yard butterfly during last Friday’s meet against the Prout School. Brennan placed second in that event, but won the 200-yard individual medley in a time of 2:27.31 to help the Clippers defeat the Prout School, 56-34, for their third win of the season. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
Swim program boasts plenty of young talent

CUMBERLAND – With strength in numbers in the freshman and sophomore classes, the future looks blindingly bright for the Cumberland High swim program.

But the present has also been very good for this winter’s boys’ and girls’ team, despite what their records show in the always-competitive Division I standings.

The boys’ team, even with their top swimmer, senior captain Ian Zito, out of the lineup, upped its record at 3-4 last Friday afternoon by posting a 56-32 win over the Prout School on the Clippers’ campus, but the girls weren’t as fortunate, suffering a 58-35 loss that dropped their record to 2-5.

Both teams began this week with two dual meets remaining, including today’s 4 p.m. showdown against Moses Brown in Providence. A week from Sunday, the Clippers will head to the Division I championship meet at Roger Williams University, and six days later, they will swim at the state championship meet at Brown University.

Last season, the Clippers brought out their best in those final two meets, especially the Division I meet, which saw the boys’ squad finish fourth behind powerful Bishop Hendricken, Barrington, and La Salle, and one of its young talents, Ian Horstkamp-Vinekar, win the 100-yard butterfly.

Horstkamp-Vinekar, who is a sophomore, is one of the top underclassmen on this season’s team, which despite its youth, should fare well down the stretch.

"We have a very young boys' team,” noted McGarry. “Our core strength are really our freshman and sophomore classes. We were the eighth best team in Rhode Island at the Read/Watmough Invitational (on Jan. 28), and that was just with freshmen and sophomores.”

Zito is currently putting the finishing touches on a brilliant high school career, and he should find himself on the awards podium quite a few times at the RIIL Championships on Feb. 24 at Brown University. At last year’s state meet, he placed sixth in the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyles and helped two relay teams place in the top four.

The same can obviously be said for Horstkamp-Vinekar, who also seized third place in the 200-yard freestyle and fifth in the 100-yard butterfly at that meet and joined Zito on the relay squads. A state championship in one of those events could certainly be in his near future.

"Strategically, we're going to load our relays and kind of build the lineup around the two Ians,” McGarry said of the state meet, which saw the Clippers finish sixth last season. “The other guys are kind of like the supporting cast members, and if we can get a couple of points here and there and load the relays, we should finish in the top 10.”

As for the Clippers’ young swimmers, sophomore Aidan Ocampo, who captured the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyles last Friday, is back from last year, and McGarry didn’t hesitate to name a few freshmen, such as Thomas Brennan, Joe Beauvais, Jack Doherty, and Evan Goddard, who each placed in the top three in multiple events in the victory over Prout.

"These freshmen, coming in and having to step into a varsity role from day one, was a lot to ask them, but they responded probably better than what I ever could have imagined,” said McGarry. “We've had some growing pains at the beginning, but they've settled in, and they’re going to be kind of the core that we're going to try to build a team around.”

For the girls, sophomore Caroline Shen and junior Cameron Cronin are also enjoying exceptional seasons. Shen, who also won the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyles last Friday, finished third in the 50-yard freestyle at last year’s state meet and should pick up another medal come Feb. 24, and Cronin, who is excellent in the 100-yard butterfly and 200-yard individual medley, “brings some experience and leadership to the team,” added McGarry.

Juniors Abby Dion and freshman Kat DeStefano and Ashlyn Tineo “are some of the other core swimmers,” reported McGarry, who also said that at the state meet, “we're going to try to do the same thing with the girls. Load the relays, build a lineup around Caroline and some of our other top swimmers, and hopefully also crack the top 10.”

Regardless of what happens in the final few weeks of their season, McGarry said that it’s truly been an enjoyable season with his pack of Clippers, and if anything, it’s been a lot of fun.

“I think the future is bright for this program,” added McGarry. “We have a nice chemistry, and the most important thing about the kids is that they’re very close knit and they're having fun. If you’re having fun, then you’re going to swim fast.”

Above, Cumberland sophomore Hannah Leonard gives it her all in the 100-yard backstroke during last Friday afternoon’s meet. The girls’ team suffered a 58-35 loss to the Prout School. Below, Cumberland freshman Evan Goddard swims in the 100-yard breaststroke during last Friday afternoon’s boys’ meet. Goddard placed second in that event and third in the 50-yard freestyle.