The Shelton High girls swim team gathered around head coach Sara Collimore prior to the final event of Friday’s meet at the Shelton Community Center pool.
The Gaelettes were looking for the first win of the season against St. Joseph of Trumbull and needed their 400 freestyle relay team to come through.
Senior Colette Harley and sophomore Jennifer Gulick swam even with the Cadet swimmers over the first two lengths.
Then, senior Carolyn Rennie went out hard and gained the lead as the cheers reached a fevered pitch with one length to go.
Sophomore Jessica Poole entered the water and was stride-for-stride to the wall, before edging out St. Joseph by three one-hundreds of a second.
A celebration ensued on the pool deck, as the Gaelettes pulled victory from the jaws of defeat in a dramatic 86-84 victory.
“That was one of the most exciting finishes in quite some time,” Collimore said. “We really needed something like that. Our girls showed a lot of heart and it was really a total team effort.”
Shelton came into the season with a depleted lineup after graduating 12 swimmers from last season.
Harley and Rennie, along with classmates Dena Miccinello and Maeve Holler, teamed up with juniors Anna Alvardo, Charlotte MacDonald and Lenni Paolini to provide the leadership for this year’s group of Gaelettes.
Shelton struggled early on, facing four of the top teams in the state in Amity of Woodbridge, Mercy of Middletown, Branford and Cheshire.
But against St. Joseph in front of a hometown crowd, this young team may have turned the corner.
“That was a solid effort as we had 20 best times against St. Joseph,” Collimore said. “It certainly is something we can build on.
“We came into the season a little more than a rebuilding project — it’s been more like building from the ground up.”
Shelton certainly showed it has the tools to put this all together.
The 200 medley relay squad of freshman Juliane Shriver, Poole, Harley and Rennie put the Gaelettes on the course to victory, as they raced away with a first-place finish in a time of 2:07.83.
The Cadets battled back with Jillian Rice winning the 50 freestyle and the 100 butterfly, and Jessica Daigle adding victories in the 200 and 500 freestyle.
Shelton hung tough, with Poole turning in a first-place effort in the 200 IM at 2:20.17 and Rennie taking first in the 100 freestyle with a winning time of 1:01.64.
St. Joseph looked like it had the meet won when the 200 freestyle relay team wrapped up first place to gain the lead.
Shelton needed a strong effort to get back in the meet or the final event wouldn’t settle anything.
Shriver raced to victory in the 100 backstroke at 1:15.08, and Poole followed up that effort with a first-place showing in the 100 breaststroke in 1:12.51.
Suddenly the Gaelettes were within striking distance with the 400 relay remaining.
The 4:04.11 performance in the 400 relay by Harley, Gulick, Rennie and Poole sent Shelton to victory.
“I think this will put us on track to win a few more meets over the next few weeks,” Collimore said. “The girls are staying calm and working together as a team and good things will happen for us.”
Shelton has sophomores Katherine Funes, Daria Kraszewska and Julia Welch, along with Shae Zalenski and Skye Zalenski, adding to the production of the young lineup.
Freshman Madeline Bocchino, Abigail Hundt, Tiffany Wronski and Heather Keith look to contribute down the stretch for the Gaelettes.
Shelton hosts Jonathan Law of Milford on Thursday.