First loss to Rams in 13 years

If the streak was going to end in any way, a regular-season match was the best option.

Last Friday, the Darien girls swimming and diving team's 12-year run of wins against visiting New Canaan ended in a 96-90 loss at the YMCA. But there was plenty of good news to surface at the pool since several members of the young DHS squad recorded season-best results.

One might think the outcome was disappointing for the host swimmers, but they took it in stride.

"I really wouldn't say it's disappointing because almost all of our girls got their best times," senior captain Caroline Treesh pointed out.

This could have been considered frustrating for the Wave. The meet, after all, was close all the way to the finish. Darien held a 42-36 lead after the diving event before New Canaan earned the first-, second- and third-place finishes in the 100 yard butterfly to seize a 49-45 advantage. Darien closed to within two points following Caroline Treesh's first-place finish in the 100 free (56.48).

Lindsey Tyler won the 500 free (5:20.10) but New Canaan took second, third and fourth to outscore the Wave 9-7 in the event for a 65-61 overall lead.

New Canaan pulled ahead by 10 points following the 200 free relay and 100 backstroke events before Darien made things very interesting. In the 100 breaststroke, the second to last event of the afternoon, Darien's Olivia Leunis and Commie Kirby finished one-two with times of 1:04.68 and 1:13.60, respectively. Those results helped the Wave outscore the Rams 11-5 and pull to within 88-84 heading into the final competition, the 400 free relay.

Darien hung close, but the Rams didn't relinquish the lead following any of the remaining events before finally sealing the overall win with a first-place finish in the 400 free relay.

The lineup was slightly different than the one New Canaan coach Dave Fine had used in previous meets this campaign.

"I moved some swimmers just to match up with them," the coach said. "It's a very versatile team. I can move people around."

With the meet so close toward the end, Fine considered switching around some of his 400 free relay swimmers.

"I took a couple of minutes and thought about splitting my relays," said Fine, adding that he, ultimately, left well enough alone. "I had confidence in my A relay to go out and win it."

Darien had the second- and third-place finishes in the 400 free relay but New Canaan won the event and got the necessary eight points to claim the overall victory. New Canaan's 400 relay contingent of Taylor Dunstan, Emma Tobey, Lindsey Jones and Erin Dunstan finished in 3:46.22 to edge out Darien's relay team of Amanda Beiler, Caroline Orem, Lindsay Tyler and Olivia Leunis, which finished in 3:47.41.

The first-place win gave the Rams eight points to Darien's four. The Wave earned a combined six points for second- and third-place finishes in the event but it wasn't enough to offset that crucial win by the Rams.

"Lucky 13," Fine said moments after the meet ended.

Of course, it was anything but luck; New Canaan had the more-experienced team and the young Blue Wave swimmers, despite the program's years of domination, felt like the underdogs.

"It was an exciting meet. We really fought it down to the last race," senior captain and diver Adrianna Baker said.

In the 200 individual medley, Darien again had a first-place finish and New Canaan's Allie Skaperdas earned second to keep her team within four points heading into the 50 free. Maddie Rusch won the 50 free in a time of 29.76 to close the gap to two points as the meet went into the diving competition. DHS won the diving event and New Canaan's Ariana Ross earned second. That set the stage for New Canaan's 1-2-3 sweep in the butterfly event. Maddie Rusch (59.60), Emma Tobey (1:00.50) and Jenna Egan (1:03.67) helped the Rams outscore DHS 13-3 in the event.

"I think we all did unbelievable," senior captain Lindsay Tyler added.

Darien, in addition to winning all of the regular-season meets between the two rivals for the last dozen years, has consistently finished ahead of the Rams in tournament competition. The teams finished one-two in the Class M State Championships a year ago. Both schools are in Class L this season.

"We've been gunning for Darien every year here, inching closer to them and this happened to be our year," Fine said.

Despite Darien's run of success coming in, arguably, the Rams should have been the favorites to prevail.

The meet was so close that, as the final point totals were tallied, the Rams' swimmers stood holding hands, hoping to hear they had enough points to win.

"I was squeezing the life out of the hands next to me," Skaperdas said.

Both Darien and New Canaan have had to overcome significant losses to graduation after last year. New Canaan lost nine swimmers from a year ago, but Darien has faced even more rebuilding with 15 new swimmers and divers in the fold this fall.

"We knew, basically, we were going to be an underdog this year because I graduated 12 seniors and I have 15 freshmen on the team," Darien coach Marj Trifone said. "We just put up a great meet today. I can't be any prouder of these kids."

"Everybody pushed so hard. I couldn't have asked to see anything better," senior captain Amy Sanborn added.

Darien will host Greenwich, in what stands to be another exciting meet, this Friday at 3 p.m.