Last year was a special one for the Cranston East boys’ swimming team. It completed an unbeaten dual meet season, edging out tough teams like South Kingstown and Lincoln for the crown and the team’s first unbeaten regular season since 1998-99. In the postseason, the ’Bolts continued their success, capturing their second consecutive first-place finish at the Division II championships.
Then they sent the bulk of their team to states, where they had a strong showing and swam to an eighth-place finish.
And as exciting as the journey was last season from start to finish, the ’Bolts aren’t content to be a one-and-done. They don’t want to regress.
East wants to do it all again.
The team graduated its top swimmer, John Lovelace, and contributors Calvin Kanno and Brandon Lynch. Other than that, though, the ’Bolts have everyone back in the fold, including some top-level talent that could pave the way for another season to remember.
“Seniors know what they did last year,” head coach Bob Bouchard said. “They’re trying to do the same this year. I’ve got a good group of kids – they don’t want to lose it.”
So far, it’s all going according to the plan. East has had two dual meets thus far, and it’s easily taken care of business in both. It opened with a 70-23 win over Portsmouth and then beat Westerly 66-28.
Of course, there are still some tests along the way. Mount St. Charles is down to D-II from D-I and South Kingstown is always formidable. The road to the top won’t be easy.
“I think we will be in that upper group,” Bouchard said. “I don’t know how South Kingstown is – I think they’re strong. I haven’t seen them. I’ve seen Lincoln.
Mount St. Charles we go against this year, because they moved down from Division I. I think we’ll be in the thick of things coming down the stretch.”
Luckily, the ’Bolts have some strong, experienced swimmers to lean on.
It starts with the team’s seniors. Hector Maya, Jake Gorelikov, Max Cavas and Sam Cavas are all serving as captains, and they’ve got solid credentials.
Maya, Max Cavas and Gorelikov all swam on the fourth-place 200 medley relay team last year at states, while Maya and Gorelikov were parts of the seventh-place 400 free relay team.
Maya also took 10th in the 200 free and the 12th in the 100 free. Gorelikov was 10th in the 100 breast and 12th in the 200 free. Sam Cavas was huge contributor at the D-II meet, while Max Cavas grabbed an 11th in the 100 fly at states.
Two others – Gabe Bielanski and John Rainone – round out the senior class.
The junior class is solid as well, paced by Mike Vanini and John D’Alfonso. Vanini was 12th in the 200 individual medley and 14th in the 100 breast at states a season ago, while D’Alfonso was 15th in the 500 free.
As far as sophomores, Austin Harris sets the pace there. He swam on the 400 free relay team at states, and has had a solid start to this year.
“Austin Harris has been a good surprise for us,” Bouchard said. “He’s a sophomore, and he’s starting to come into his own. He’s pretty versatile.”
There are a few in the freshmen class who might do some damage, too. Kevin Li, Adam Almedia and Ricky D’Alfonso could all make some noise.
In total, there are 22 boys on the team, and they’ll be focusing on swimming their way toward another special season.
“We’ll see how it goes from here,” Bouchard said. “It’s tough when you go from the division to the state meet. It’s harder to get those points. Hopefully they realize it and work hard at it.”
Girls mixing and matching
The East girls’ swimming team graduated a few girls from last year, but the biggest losses were Erica and Kristen Bachand, who picked up a lot of the slack in multiple events.
While losing two girls doesn’t seem like it would be enough to completely change the look of a team, that’s exactly what’s happened with the ’Bolts.
They have a few top-line swimmers leading the way, but they’re moving people around trying to fill the holes left by the twins.
“The girls didn’t realize it until they hopped in the water, but when you lose the two twins from last year, they did a lot of the free’s and fly’s and the 50 free,” Bouchard said. “Now I had to move kids from wherever trying to get their spots. It’s tough.”
The Bachands were both on East’s 10th-place 200 medley relay team and its 11th place 400 free relay team at states last year, as well as the team’s 13th-place 200 free relay team. Kristen Bachand took 16th in the 100 butterfly, too.
It won’t be easy to replace that production, but it’s not as if East doesn’t have a chance to have a solid season. With 18 girls on the roster, there is a lot of potential, and it could even match last year’s 5-2 record and third-place finish at the D-II championships.
So far, the results have been mixed. The team is 1-1, with a 57-37 win over Portsmouth along with a 57-37 loss to Westerly.
“They actually have some high goals,” Bouchard said. “They had a great division meet last year and finished third in the division meet. They want to continue that, if not move up.”
If the ’Bolts are going to contend, though, they’ll need their best swimmers to take some steps forward.
The team has five girls back in the fold who qualified for states last year.
One of those girls is senior Annie Clarkin, who is serving as a captain along with fellow senior Heidi Liebrich. Clarkin was a member of the 200 and 400 free relay at teams at states.
Juniors Julia Lawson, Beatrix Kanno, Danielle Perrotta and Kaileen Field will also lead the way. Perrotta was on both of the same relay teams as Clarkin was and Lawson and Field were both on the 200 medley relay. Lawson finished 16th in the 100 breast, as well, and Kanno had the team’s top individual finish with a 10th-place showing in the 100 breast.
East also expects a contribution from sophomore Salma Flores.
“She’s a sprinter,” Bouchard said. “She could really come along if she stays healthy.”
Currently, everyone is trying to adjust to some new sports. Field has been doing the butterfly, while Perrotta and Clarkin have been handling the freestyle events.
It makes for a different set of circumstances than last year, but one that could yield similar results when it’s all said and done.
“They want to be there in the end,” Bouchard said. “Hopefully they put some individual goals together and see what happens.”
The next dual meet for both the boys and the girls is Jan. 3 at East Providence at 3:30 p.m.