Sports records are made to be broken. But usually, it doesn’t take nearly two decades.
Yet that was what happened recently with one of the longest-standing records for the Wilton Y Wahoos swim team.
The record for the boys 12-and-under 200-yard freestyle relay had been set 18 years before, back when George W. Bush was president and Michael Jordan was the reigning basketball superstar. But in late October, at a home meet at the Riverbrook/Wilton YMCA, the boys’ quartet of Gregory Pinchbeck, Jack Cunningham, Neil Kelly and Tommy Lussier shaved nearly three seconds off the existing team record.
The next day at the meet, three of those same relay swimmers — Pinchbeck, Cunningham, and Lussier — teamed up with Evan Vanvelzor to produce yet another record-breaking swim, topping by 0.8 seconds the 12-and-under boys’ Wahoo team record in the 200-yard medley relay that had stood for eight years.
Coach Eric Holden, who steers the Wahoos’ 12-and-under squad on the Wahoos, attributes the four boys’ success to their attitude and the bonds they’ve developed in and out of the pool.
“They’ve been swimming together since they were 5 or 6[-years-old],” he said. “They’re all passionate about the sport and motivate each other in practice, but they also hang out together outside the pool.”
Holden added that the dynamic in team swimming is an unusual one that builds great skills for the athletes.
“Swimming is a unique sport in that the swimmer competes as an individual but also for the team. So the swimmers want to do well for themselves but also work hard together for each other.”
Joining Holden in coaching the Wahoos’ 12-and-under age group are Todd Stevens and Ray Snyder, who together have crafted one of the top programs in Connecticut, regularly seeing their athletes compete at high levels.
Take for instance this past summer. With an estimated 5,900 swimmers throughout the state of Connecticut aged 12 or younger, only the fastest three boys and girls in each event are selected to compete in the season’s most prestigious meet — Zones. At this years’ Zones, of the 65 swimmers competing, seven were Wahoos, making up 9% of all the competitors. It’s particularly impressive since Connecticut disproportionately produces fast swimming on a national level for its size, with several CT swimmers represented at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials, including one from Ridgefield who went on to win a bronze medal at the Tokyo Summer Games.
The squad’s success was well-timed, as the Wahoos will celebrate the program’s 50th anniversary in 2022. Coach Holden is proud of the deep and broad talent pool he sees on the current 12-and-under squad, and he points out that he and the other Wahoos coaches continue to develop a pipeline of impressive up-and-coming talent.
“We’re excited by the future,” he said.
Founded in 1972, the Wilton Y Wahoo Swim Team is named for the fastest game fish in the ocean. The team’s website says it has a “legacy of achievement in the national and international arenas” and “the results speak for themselves.”
The website lists several former Wahoos who went on to achieve major milestones and awards in the world of competitive swimming:
- 2019 World University Games Gold Medalist: Ky-lee Perry
- 2016 USA Paralympic Trials Finalist: David Gelfand
- 2016 Rio Olympian for Antigua and Barbuda: Noah Mascoll-Gomes
- 1999 Pan American Bronze Medalist: Dan Shevchehik
- 1988 Olympian Silver Medalist: Janel Jorgensen
- 24 Olympic Trial Qualifiers: 1984—Kara Devlin; 1988–Karin Andren, Lauren Curtis, John Davis, Janel Jorgensen, Robin Lewis, Stacey Porter, Julie Reid, Leslie Seward, John Vaught, and Chris Weissman; 1992—Steve Kuster (Semi-Finalist); 1996—Amy Lindblom; 2008—Phil Baity; 2012—Shelby Fortin, Robert Harder, Christian Higgins, Eric Ronda, Madeline Smart, and Emily Weir; 2016—Verity Abel, Ian Rainey, Stephen Holmquist, and Ky-lee Perry
- 34 National YMCA Championship Teams (Women’s/Men’s/Team)
- Multiple Connecticut Senior Championships
- Multiple Connecticut Age Group Championships
- 29 YMCA Swim League Championships
- 43 USA & YMCA National Records
- 16 World-ranked swimmers
Wahoo swimmers have represented the United States at multiple international competitions:
- Seoul Olympics: Janel Jorgensen (1988 Silver Medal)
- Pan Pacific Games: Eric Ronda (2012)
- Pan American Games: Janel Jorgensen (1987)
- World University Games
- Sports Festival
- USA Open Water Team
- 2016 Long Course YMCA Combined and Men’s National Champions
How to Get Involved at Any Level
The 2021-2022 season is currently underway. Wahoo swimmers come from over 22 towns in southwestern Connecticut and Westchester County.
Coaches hold formal try-outs twice a year, but they are also open to evaluating budding team members on an ongoing basis. Aspiring Wahoos can contact Coach Holden.
At minimum, swimmers should be able to complete 25 yards of freestyle and 25 yards of backstroke unassisted. Competitive team swimmers are placed one of seven training groups based on ability:
- National: designed for swimmers looking to maximize swimming potential, with the goal to excel at the highest levels of YMCA and USA Swimming.
- Senior: middle training group for 13-and-overs, with a year-round commitment to competition and six regular practices a week.
- Junior: for 13 and overs to continue their involvement with the Wahoos; may be ideal for high school swimmers who play additional sports or may have difficulty making a year-round commitment.
- Gold: the top level of the Age Group (12-and-under) Program. Designed to prepare swimmers for the transition into 13-and-over programs, athletes learn advanced stroke technique and race strategy, and will compete in USA Swimming invitationals, in addition to their expected attendance in the CT YMCA State Championship Meet, CT Regionals, and CT Age Groups for those who qualify.
- Maroon: Swimmers in this group begin to learn advanced stroke technique, racing starts and turns, and basic training skills. Swimmers are introduced to basic race strategy and practice sets. Swimmers will compete in USA Swimming invitationals, in addition to their expected attendance in the CT YMCA State Championship Meet, CT Regionals, and CT Age Groups for those who
- Super Squad: Super Squad swimmers will continue to learn the proper stroke technique of all four competitive strokes, streamlines, racing starts and turns, how to use the pace clock and the rules for competition. Swimmers will compete in Meets as designated by the 12/Under Meet Schedule, including USA Swimming Invitationals, CT YMCA State Championship Meet, CT Regionals and CT Age Groups for those who qualify.
- Super Bronze: the first competitive training group offered by the Wahoo Swim Team, for swimmers 9 years old or younger. Athletes will learn how to better their stroke technique in all four competitive strokes, streamlining, basic diving techniques in preparation for racing starts, and to learn the rules governing the competitive strokes.
- Pre Team: run through the Aquatic Department at the Riverbrook/Wilton Family YMCA. Email for more information.
Swimmers with competitive swimming experience who have recently moved to Connecticut and are interested in joining a new Club Team can contact coaches to set up a meeting and evaluation time. Swimmers ages 13-and-over should email Todd Stevens; swimmers ages 12-and-under should email Eric Holden.