CIACsports.com gave fans the chance to choose their favorite CIAC Championship NFHS Network moment from 2016-17, with 16 choices. And the fans have spoken. We happily present the top-5 choices for top championship moment in descending order with one revealed each day. And now we reveal the voting winner.
#1 – E.O. Smith’s McKenna Dale wins the fastest 50 freestyle in Connecticut history at the State Open.
One of many great things about events like the Girls Swimming State Open is that it contains so many different competitions within the larger event. So while teams are battling it out for a State Open title, each event also creates its own opportunity for drama and excitement; history and records. Such was the case as the swimmers toed the blocks for this year’s 50-yard freestyle final at the State Open at Yale’s Kiphuth Pool.
E.O. Smith’s McKenna Dale and Sarah Grinalds of Fairfield Ludlowe established their credentials in this race the previous season at the Open when Grinalds earned the win and Dale finished second. In fact, now in her junior year, Grinalds had a victory in her sophomore year and a runner-up effort in her freshman year on her resume. But what elevated this battle from a run-of-the-mill competition between two equal competitors was the potential for some history.
Lauren Moore of Wilton set the bar high in the 50 freestyle when she swam a state and Open-record time of 23.20 in 1997. Many swimmers had taken a shot at that mark, but it was one of two Open records that still stood from the 1990s — even in their tight battle the previous year, both Dale and Grinalds were nearly a quarter of a second off the time. It looked to be a record that would be tough to break. That is until Dale made a statement with a new state time of 23.17 in winning the race at the Class L championship, while Grinalds claimed the title at the LL race with a mark of 23.22.
For Dale, the history question was nice, but her focus was on getting to the wall first. “After getting second in the 50 and 100 free, I really wanted to bounce back my senior year,” she explained. “I had gotten better every year since my freshman year so I just wanted to keep that improvement up, but ultimately the goal was to win Opens in either event that I did.”
The stakes were clear, the question was, could the duo push each other to more history.
The answer was an emphatic “yes.” Battling it out all the way to the wall, the results saw both competitors best the previous state and Open records with Dale edging Grinalds with a new record time of 23.03 while Grinalds swam 23.10. Those times are nearly .50 faster than what the two stellar swimmers put together the previous season in this meet, and for Dale, the time was almost two full seconds faster than what she swam in the 50 at the State Open as a freshman.
“In the 50 free it’s such a short race you really have to get everything perfect,” Dale said. “I know Sarah and she is such a talented swimmer and she definitely pushed me throughout the whole season. Dropping my times and winning was the best feeling, a feeling of relief that my hard work had paid off, just an incredible feeling.”
An incredible feeling, and an incredible moment for those involved watching two remarkable scholastic performers bring out the best in each other. That’s the sort of moment that should be recognized and celebrated after it happens. And the fans agreed, choosing the 50 freestyle from the Girls Swimming & Diving State Open as the top CIAC Championship NFHS Network moment from 2016-17.
- #5 – Faith Thurmond caps a dominant performance as Seymour wins first girls volleyball title
- #4 – Daniel Hand breaks through with a late overtime goal to win the Class L boys soccer championship
- #3 – Brookfield gets late hoop to win thrilling boys basketball title
- #2 – A remarkably deep three beats the buzzer for New Fairfield’s Kristen Teklits