WHS 3rd in states

Westfield’s Hope Walsh completes the 200-yard freestyle in the girls’ state swim championships at Springfield College Saturday. Walsh went on to break the school record in the 500 freestyle. (Photo by chief photographer Frederick Gore)

SPRINGFIELD – The Westfield High School girls’ swimming and diving team ventured into uncharted waters, and it was well worth the wait.
Westfield earned its highest-ever state championship finish, placing third at the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s girls’ winter state swimming and diving championships Saturday at Springfield College’s Art Linkletter Natatorium.
Westfield’s 200 yard medley relay team recorded the program’s highest finish of the day (second), and Bombers’ junior Hope Walsh set a new school record in the 500 freestyle.
“We’ve never really come to states with the idea to finish as high as we can,” said Westfield head swim coach Tom Lewis.
Lewis admitted that in previous years he often shuffled swimmers in and out of various events just to get their feet wet, and allowed seniors the opportunity to enjoy one last hurrah. But this year, it was only the best of the best.
“We set a goal to try to win a trophy at states,” Lewis said. “To finish third is tremendous. We swam great tonight.”
Westfield scored 219 points, behind only Westford Academy (351.5 points) and Lincoln Sudbury (250). King Philip (153) and Minnechaug (146) rounded out the top five.
Westfield’s 200-yard medley relay team set the tone early as Kelsey Johnstone, Erin Lewis, Genna Senecal, and Jordan Jacobson combined for a silver medal by finishing in 1:53.48. Westford Academy won the event with a time of 1:48.36.
Walsh provided one of several highlights in the second half of the meet, finishing fourth in the 500-yard freestyle. Her time of 5:12.45 shattered the old school record.
“At Western Mass., I was disappointed because I wanted it really badly,” Walsh said. “Today was bittersweet. …Everyone was cheering, being supportive – and we pulled it all together.”
Westfield has been united all season, capturing the league championship for boys and girls with identical 10-0 marks. The program’s swimmers, their family members, coaches, and the school’s athletic director, Karen Gomez, banded together with others to keep the WMass meet from being cancelled after a crippling snowstorm hit the region the weekend of the event.
That same team spirit continued on Saturday.
Westfield had top 15 finishes in numerous events, including: the 200 freestyle (Walsh/8th/2:00.17; Lauren Longley/9th/2:01.06), 200 individual medley (Lewis/7th/2:15.63; Senecal/11th/2:17.08; Hannah Plourde/14th/2:19.82), 50 freestyle (Jacobson/12th/25.88), 1 meter diving (Kelsey Veillette/8th/373.80), 100 butterfly (Senecal/7th/1:01.21; Longley/15th/1:03.61), 100 free (Jacobson/7th/56.32; Johnstone/12th/56.86), 200 free relay (Longley, Lewis, Walsh, Jacobson/4th/1:42.80), 100 backstroke (Kate McCabe/14th/1:03.78), 100 breaststroke (Lewis/8th/1:10.62), and 400 free relay (Longley, Senecal, Johnstone, Walsh/4th/3:45.61).
“We’re definitely happy,” Walsh said. “We wanted to get second place, but getting third is a huge step for us. We are all super happy. This was a great way to end the season.”
Westfield enjoyed many personal bests, including several solid dives from Veillette. The team’s lone senior diver at states nearly broke the school record.
“I did better than I thought I would,” said Veillette, who earned high scores on a reverse pike, and double. “It was an awesome first and last states.”

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