With health concerns causing the state meets to be canceled for the second straight year, Cheshire High School senior Justin Finkel knew that last Thursday’s Southern Connecticut Conference virtual meet would be his last time swimming for the Rams. In a historic performance, he went out on a high note.
Finkel won his first two SCC titles and earned pair of individual best times, leading Cheshire to a fourth-place finish in the SCC (777 points) and Division I (886). Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the SCC had teams hold virtual meets from March 20-27 and then put the times and scores together.
“It is surreal for this to be my last meet,” said Finkel, a tri-captain with seniors Noah Duncan and Harrison Hua. “Even though we didn’t get to compete at states, I thought everyone stepped up to have a strong finish to the year.”
In winning the 100-yard butterfly (51.21), Finkel set a new CHS record. A 2018 graduate and co-captain, Ben Brewer set the previous mark (51.38) three years ago.
“I thought that I had a great first 50 (yards) in the race. I was dead tired on the second, but hoped that the first part would carry me to a best time” said Finkel. “When you look at the board, it shows your split before the final time. It took a few seconds, but it was great to see the record up there.”
“He was impressive,” said interim coach Dave Modzelewski. “Justin has been talking about going after the butterfly record. He had one more shot tonight and took advantage of it.”
He clocked another personal-record time in the 50-yard freestyle (21.46), placing third overall.
“I was a little tired after the (200-yard medley) relay, but pushed myself through that race,” Finkel said.
Finkel picked up his second gold medal in the 400-yard freestyle relay, teaming with junior Anmol Sapru, senior Martin Adlianitski, and Hua to earn a winning time of 3:16.82. Like Finkel, Sapru, Adlianitski, and Hua picked up their first crowns in the meet.
“Going into the meet, Dave (Modzelewski) pulled us inside and said that he had high hopes for that relay,” stated Hua. “To step up to our potential was rewarding to say the least.”
Junior Wes Johnson, sophomore Silas Wang, Sapru, and Finkel combined to finish runner-up in the 200-yard medley relay (1:39.84).
“That was a great start,” stated Sapru. “I thought that set us up well for the rest of the meet.”
Hua took third in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:00.51) and fifth in the 200-yard individual medley (1:59.26). For the 200-yard freestyle relay, he joined with sophomore Alexander Fang, Wang, and Adlianitski to finish in fourth place (1:33.10).
“I wasn’t feeling my best that day, but thinking back on it, I did better than I thought that I was going to do,” explained Hua.
Adlianitski placed third in the 100-yard freestyle (48.78) and eighth in the 50-yard freestyle (22.32). After not competing as a junior, he became one of Cheshire’s top point-scorers this year.
Sapru finished fifth in the 200-yard freestyle (1:48.78) and sixth in the 100-yard butterfly (53.09).
“I was quite happy,” said Sapru. “There were splits that I wanted to hit in the butterfly and I think that progress gives me momentum going into next year when I’ll try to break Finkel’s record.”
Wang secured fifth in breaststroke (1:01.66) and sprinted to 15th in the 50-yard freestyle (23.71).
Johnson picked up ninth in the 200-yard IM (2:06.85) and 10th in the 100-yard backstroke (56.38). Fang nabbed ninth in the 200-yard freestyle (1:50.68) and 13th in the 100-yard race (52.25).
Sophomore Kristian Adlianitski led the Rams in the 500-yard freestyle, coming in 11th overall (5:12.61). He came in 17th in the 200-yard freestyle (1:56.68).
Senior Aaron Fernandes made the top 25 in the 200-yard freestyle (25th, 2:08.01) and butterfly (24th, 1:02.07).
Seniors Aayush Sahasrabudhe (26th, 56.23) and Chris Scoffone (35th, 1:01.77) competed in the 100-yard freestyle. Juniors Sahil Banerjee (1:10.45) and Vincent Cai (1:25.97) came in 20th and 37th, respectively, in breaststroke.
Junior Evan Simonetta earned 24th in the 50-yard freestyle (24.90). Sophomore Jordi Monreal contributed 22nd place in backstroke (1:07.20) and junior Jarritt Romanik took 25th in the 500-yard freestyle (6:14.92).
Modzelewski was pleased with his team’s performance.
“I gave the guys a heat sheet with goals to hit and they all went below the times or came close to them,” said Modzelewski.
For the team standings, Xavier compiled 974 points to defend their title.
While having just 23 athletes this year, CHS shared the D-I regular-season crown with Xavier and North Haven/East Haven/North Branford/Guilford Co-Op.
“This season exceeded my expectations,” reflected Modzelewski. “With not having the numbers to put four guys in every race, we weren’t going to win this meet, but we did as well as we could with what we had.”
Duncan, Finkel, Hua, Adlianitski, Fernandes, Nathan Rearick, Sahasrabudhe, and Scoffone will graduate this year. Finkel will swim for Connecticut College, while Duncan will dive at Fairfield University.