Attleboro Alum Has ‘Wright’ Stuff for UMass Swimming

Owen Wright
Attleboro alum Owen Wright heads into this week’s A-10 Championships after setting a pair of Rogers Pool records for UMass men’s swimming. (UMass Athletics)

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After being out of the pool for a little while, University of Massachusetts senior Owen Wright was not sure what to expect when he stepped onto the block for the final dual meet of his collegiate career. He admitted being nervous in the build-up to UMass facing Fordham in the final meet of the regular season, having just returned to practice after dealing with complications from cystic fibrosis (CF).

“I just had to put all that negative attention away,” said Wright during a midweek phone call. “I had to divert that negativity and I just did what my coaches have trained me to do and that’s when you’re on the block and you hear the beep you perform. You can’t think about anything else when you’re on the block.”

Whatever mental hurdles Wright, a former standout for both Attleboro High and the Bluefish Swim Club, had to jump, his performance was better than even he could have imagined. He helped the 200-meter Medley Relay team earn a win to kickstart the meet and then set a pair of Rogers Pool records, in the 50-meter Freestyle (20.42) and 100-meter Freestyle (44.92), to help the Minutemen to a big Atlantic 10 Conference win.

Following the meet, Wright was named the A-10 Performer of the Week for the third time this season.

“It doesn’t happen a lot at this level where you really have some breakthrough performances,” he explained. “It really doesn’t. It’s a long, grueling trip throughout the season and you’re rarely close to your best time before the major meet, so I was super-happy.”

Wright’s swimming journey actually began years ago at the local YMCA, long enough that he admitted that he cannot remember the first time that he swam competitively. He said with a laugh, “I simply cannot remember the first time I started swimming. I can’t. It’s been such a long journey for me.”

He does recall that his first swim team was the Tsunami swim program based at the Attleboro YMCA. Despite being a smaller program, the Tsunami have several Div. I alumni, including Wright and Josh Beals (who swam for the University of North Carolina). As numbers dropped, Wright made the move to the Bluefish, a competitive USA Swimming club program that regularly sends swimmers to top colleges and even to the Olympics (R.I.-native Elizabeth Beisel in 2016).

Wright would stay with the Bluefish throughout high school, as he continued to improve and compete with some of the top talent in the country.

“Bluefish is renowned for the amount of pressure that they put on their athletes, a lot of traveling all over the country for training trips, and some pretty big swim meets,” Wright said. “That prepared me for the Div. I lifestyle, better than some kids that come from the YMCA level. That was what set me up.”

While this seems like a typical path for a college swimmer, it was not guaranteed that Wright would be a success in the pool. He has battled CF since birth. The disease, according to information from the CF Foundation, is a chronic genetic disease that affects the lungs, causing mucus buildup, infections, and other symptoms, and requires constant monitoring and treatment. When issues flare up, as they did during this season, Wright is forced out of the pool to manage his CF.

Despite the difficulties that it can cause, Wright saw CF was not an obstacle, but as a motivation.

“Sure there were some setbacks – I would get sick every so often and have to be out of the pool and that’s happened in my college career too,” he said. “It’s just part of life with the disease, but I just kept my chin up and pushed myself to do more.”

Wright continued, “When I’m feeling not so great, I push myself always to do more. That’s kind of what got me into this level of swimming. I step up on the blocks and I’m not feeling great, what am I going to do? Am I going to pull out of this race? No, I’m going swim the race and I’m going to try and win the race.”

Pushed by people who wanted him to stop or who wanted him to take it easy, Wright set bigger and bigger goals for himself. He was focused on meeting the qualifying times for the prestigious Speedo Junior National Championship, despite taking the block next to swimmers that were, by his own admission, much bigger and stronger. “I would get up on the blocks and I’d be like, oh man how am I going to get to that level?” he said. “Those times I really pushed myself to accomplish and I got one time when I was a junior in high school. Those cut times were my main inspiration.”

He achieved that goal during his junior year of high school, which was also the moment that he realized he could compete at the Div. I collegiate level. While swimming for his club at the top level, Wright was also a four-year member of the Attleboro High swim team, was named a Hockomock League All-Star three times and won state titles in the 50-free and 200-free in 2013.

High school swimming was a welcome break from the pressures of the club scene, even if it meant more than four hours per day in the pool. Wright said, “The high school level was more about showing up to practice and having fun. You’re with your friends, kind of chilling, and just having fun with the sport and that allowed me to kind of relax and take it a little less seriously.”

He added, “You get wrapped up in your head quite frequently when you’re on teams like Bluefish. I think it was healthy for me.”

His brother River also swam for Attleboro, before stepping aside after a strong freshman season to focus on Bluefish. River is now a junior and, according to Owen, being recruited by some of the top swim programs in the country. Having gone through the recruiting process, Owen is now offering advice, even if he admits that River is “much faster” and “on another level.”

“The whole game was very strategic,” Wright said of talking to Div. 1 schools. “I alerted River to this and told him, this is a business deal that you’re making.”

Wright ended up at UMass under legendary head coach Russ Yarworth, who is also an Attleboro native. Thanks to his time with Bluefish, Wright said that he was ready for the challenges of the Div. I level and it showed in the pool. He was an All-Conference performer as a rookie in the 800-meter Freestyle Relay (first team) and in the 200-meter Medley Relay (second team). He added three All-Conference honors as a sophomore, but he said that his senior season has been his best for the Minutemen.

“All the training that I’ve put in over the years is finally solidifying into really good skills that I can use in the water, skills that my competition might not have necessarily, and it basically comes from a long history with the sport,” he said.

He competes in the 50-free, 100-free, and 200-free, but it is the 50-meter race that remains his favorite. “It’s super-quick and there’s a lot of hype from the crowds,” Wright explained. “The best way to describe the 50-free is that it’s 75 percent energy and 25 percent actual performance. There’s the pre-race, you’re getting ready, you’ve got the crowd, you’re just feeling the energy and really only 25 percent of the time you’re actually in the pool swimming.”

After setting records in his final competitive swim in the Rogers Pool, Wright has turned his thoughts to his final meet as a collegiate swimmer. The A-10 Championships will be held in Geneva, Ohio on Wednesday and he is hoping to close out his career with one more big night in the pool.

“One last chance and I am just so thrilled with how I’ve performed,” he said. “I’m so happy to be going into A-10s in such a good position. This is just beyond expectation and beyond my wildest dreams for how I’d finish out my senior year.”

(Ed. Note – Wright is not the only former Hockomock League swimmer that is having a strong senior season for the Minutemen. King Philip alum Chris DiGiacomo, a senior at UMass, posted a time of 1:50.47 in the 200 Individual Medley against Fordham to set a new Rogers Pool record. DiGiacomo earned Div. III All-American honors as a freshman at Keene State.)

The Campus Report: Winter 2017 Update

Hockomock Campus Report

The HockomockSports.com Campus Report is an update on former Hockomock League athletes currently competing in collegiate sports. If you would like to submit an update, please e-mail info@HockomockSports.com.

Babson men’s basketball has been the top ranked DIII college program for a good portion of the season and former HockomockSports.com Player of the Year and Franklin Panther Sam Bohmiller has played a vital role. The Beavers (21-1) are riding a 12-game winning streak heading into Saturday’s visit to Clark. Bohmiller has started in 20 games this season (missing two for an injury), averaging 29 minutes per game. Shooting at 53.4% from the field (49.2% from three point), Bohmiller is averaging 7.6 points per game as well as 2.2 assists, 2.6 rebounds and nearly 1.0 steals per game.

Mansfield’s Joe Collins has had a terrific year for Southern New Hampshire’s hockey team through 26 games. A graduate student, Collins is second on the team with 11 goals, first on the team with 21 assists and leads the Penmen with 32 points. His +8 is second on the team and his three game-winning goals is tied for the most on the team. Collins is currently riding a three game point streak, recording two against Daniel Webster, one against Franklin Pierce and two against Framingham State. Collins will conclude his final regular season on Saturday in Foxboro against Stonehill.

Taunton graduate Angie Martinez etched her name into Mount Ida’s record books twice this season. In early December, Martinez became just the fourth women’s basketball player in program history to join the 1,000 point club. Less than a week later, Martinez became the first ever Mustang to record 1,000 rebounds. She then took her success to another level in January, hauling in her 1,125th career board, making her the all-time women’s rebounding leader in Great Northeast Athletic Conference history. For her senior season, she is third on the team with 9.1 points per game and leads the Mustangs with 12.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game.

Bridgewater State currently sits at 13-9 overall and 6-3 in MASCAC play, good enough for third. The Bears are coming off a win over league-leading Salem State in a game that saw Taunton grad Fawaz Mass drop a game-high 23 points and former HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Rocky DeAndrade chipping in with 16 points. Mass (16.2 ppg) and DeAndrade (14.4) are currently the top two in scoring for the Bears while Mansfield’s Greg Romanko, a captain is at 8.8 points per game and Milford’s Michael Soares is at 4.3 points per game. Mass is second on the team in rebounding and DeAndrade leads the Bears in assists. Soares scored a career-high 19 points late last month in a win over MCLA. Romanko also scored a season-high 19 points back in December in a rout of Maine-Augusta.

Bridgewater travels to Worcester State on Saturday to battle Milford graduate Aaron Anniballi and the Lancers. Anniballi turned it on midway through the season and was rewarded, earning starts in the last five games and six of the last seven. In a road trip to league-leading Salem State, Anniballi dropped a career-high 22 points, including a career-best five three pointers made. In the last five games, Anniballi is averaging 11.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game for the Lancers. For the season, he’s second on the team in assists and fourth in scoring despite just seven starts.

Former HockomockSports.com Hockey Player of the Year Ryan Spillane found the back of the net for the first time in his collegiate career, netting one of five goals in Saint Anselm’s win over Daniel Webster. A Franklin High product, Spillane has appeared in 14 games this year, including the last four. He registered his first assist on Friday, February 3rd against Southern Maine and then scored his first goal on Saturday. N

Success on the ice at Saint Anselm is noting new for the Spillane family though, as Kaitlyn Spillane, a junior, continues to be a big piece of the Hawks’ women’s hockey team. After 12 points as a freshman and 24 points as a sophomore, Spillane is already up to 26 points during her junior campaign. Her 26 points is good for second on the team, a combination of 10 goals and 16 assists. She’s currently riding an eight game point streak heading into Friday night’s tilt with Williams. During that stretch, she registered four points in a win over New England College.

Michael Choate has strung together two strong meets for the Boston University swim team. The former KP Warrior had three top three finishes against Boston College, including third in the 100 backstroke (52.79), third in the 200 butterfly (1:58.57) and second in the 200 backstroke (1:52.11). He followed that up with three more top three finishes against Bryant, including second in the 200 free (1:47.26) and third in the 500 free (4:56.08). He was also apart of the 200 medley relay that took third (1:38.76). North Attleboro’s Sarah Hargrave also had solid showings in the same meets. On senior night against BC, she took first in the 500 free (4:57.16) and first in the 200 free relay (1:37.34). Against Bryant, she placed third in the 100 free (54.43) and was apart of the 400 free relay that touched in third (3:49.61).

2016 HockomockSports.com First Team selection Alecia Quinones has been a top option off the bench for UMass Boston this season. The Stoughton High product has come off the bench and appeared in all 22 games for the Beacons, averaging 5.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and shooting nearly 40% from the floor. Quinones showed what she can do when she played 23 minutes earlier this season at Colby College. She scored 20 points on 8/13 shooting in the win for UMass Boston.

A trio of former Hockomock rivals turned teammates are playing a big role for UMass Amherst’s men’s swimming team. Attleboro’s Owen Wright, Franklin’s Austen Sholudko and King Philip’s Chris DiGiacomo have all helped the Minutemen as they head into Atlantic 10 Championships next weekend. In their latest meet against Fordham, Wright took first place in the 50 yard free (21.53), fourth in the 100 yard free and was apart of the 200 yard free relay team that took second place. DiGiacomo took first place in the 200 yard backstroke, second in the 200 yard IM and placed third in the 200 yard free. Sholudko placed fifth overall in the 1000 yard free and was seventh in the 500 yard free.

Bristol Community College has racked up 13 wins so far this season and is averaging an impressive 88.6 points per game as a team. Former HockomockSports.com Boys Basketball Player of the Year and Taunton standout Jose Mercado is currently third on the team in scoring with 13.8 points per game, fifth on the team with 4.5 rebounds a game and second with 2.0 steals. After coming off the bench for the majority of the season, Mercado has worked his way into the starting line up, starting five straight games. In that stretch, he’s averaged 16.4 points, 5.6 boards, 3.2 assists and 2.4 steals for the Bayhawks, who are 4-1 with him in the starting lineup.

Former HockomockSports.com Girls Basketball Player of the Year Kat Tamulionis has found a new home at Babson and recently helped the program to its 600th win. The Foxboro alum has appeared in 14 games, earning her first collegiate start at Mount Holyoke on January 21st. In the program’s 600th win, a 72-51 win over Emerson, Tamulionis scored a career-high eight points Another former Foxboro standout Ashley Snyder has made nine appearances for the Beavers so far this season, playing a season-high 12 minutes against Emory & Henry earlier this season.

There were plenty of Hockomock alums on the court on Wednesday night when Wheaton visited Clark University. Foxboro’s Rob Lowey and Alex DuBrow dressed for the visitors while Milford’s David Mercier and Joe Atkinson are both captains for the Cougars. In just his second collegiate start, DuBrow made a big difference down the stretch for the Lyons. The freshman hit a pair of free throws with 51 seconds left to give Wheaton a four point lead and then stole an inbounds pass with 22 seconds left, adding one more free throw to help ice the game. DuBrow tied a career-high with 13 points in the game while adding four assists. On the season, he’s averaging 6.8 points, 2.7 assists and leads the team with a 1.6 assist/turnover ratio. Mercier had a game-high 21 points while Atkinson added 16 in the loss. For the season, Mercier is fourth on the team with 10.7 points and fourth in rebounding at 4.2. Atkinson is the team’s top rebounder with 7.5 boards a game and is averaging 11.8 points for Clark (13-9).

Taunton’s Dylan Schrama had a strong showing in Clark University’s meet with WPI at the end of January. Competing in five events, Schrama was first for Clark in three events and touched the wall before anyone else in one event. He took first place overall in the 200 yard IM, clocking in at 2:15.42. He also placed fourth in the 50 yard backstroke and took third in the 100 yard free style. He was also a member of the 200 yard medley relay that came in third overall.

King Philip graduate and current Northeastern sophomore Carly Schnabel was tabbed as the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Swimmer of the Week. She’s the first Northeastern swimmer to earn the honor this season. Competing at Harvard, Schnabel turned in a historic performance in the 1,000-yard free by setting a new program record in 10:03.95 for first place. Her time is over seven seconds ahead of the next closest conference competitor for the event this season.

Keene State snapped a two-game skid with the help of King Philip alum Jimmy Layman. The junior forward came off the bench to score 13 points (5/8 FG), had four rebounds and came away with three steals. The Owls (15-7) recently were ranked 10th in the Northeast in the NCAA Regional Rankings for DIII. Layman has a been a top contributor off the bench so far this season, playing in 21 games and averaging 3.8 points per game and 2.1 rebounds. He scored a season-high 17 points back in December at WPI.

Less than a week after Mansfield junior Tyler Boulter set a new program record for most threes in a game (10), older brother and former Hockomock League MVP Ryan Boulter decided it was his turn to set a record. In Merrimack’s home game against Southern Connecticut, Boulter put on a show – connecting on nine three pointers to tie the school record. The sophomore forward finished with a career-high 40 points in the Warriors’ overtime win. Although just a sophomore, Boulter is currently leading the Warriors with 18.2 points per game, averaging 3.3 threes in contest. He also is hauling in 4.4 boards on average.

UMass Dartmouth women’s basketball program is used to having a Hockomock alum leading the way, and this year is no different. After years of dominance from North Attleboro’s Meg Ronaghan, now it’s Franklin’s Alicia Kutil that’s leading the way for the Corsairs (19-3). Kutil is second with 13.6 points per game and 8.0 rebounds per game, while adding 2.4 assists, 1.6 blocks and 1.2 steals. She was named the Little East Conference Player of the Week earlier this week.

Mansfield’s George Apostolopoulos qualified for the NEISDA Division II/III Championships in the 50 breaststroke over the weekend at the Bridgewater State Bears Invitational. Apostolopoulos posted a time of 35.43 seconds in the 50 breaststroke to qualify. Attleboro’s Dylon Willis helped the Bears to a pair of wins at a tri-meet at the end of January, beating Husson and Regis. Willis was apart of the 200 medley relay team that came in second, took first in the 50 yard breaststroke (28.08) and the 100 yard breaststroke and was second in the 100 IM.

Also at Bridgewater State, Mansfield’s Abbie Grant and Danielle Souza, North Attleboro’s Adi Tobias and King Philip’s Emily Garven are swimming for the Bears. At the BSU Bears Invitational, Grant was second in the 50 yard butterfly and the 100 yard IM, Souza took third in the 200 yard free, Tobias grabbed second in the 100 yard butterfly and Garven won the 50 yard backstroke as well as the 100 yard free.

Attleboro’s Bri Hochwarter is averaging 13.6 points per game and has been a big reason why Wheelock College women’s basketball has registered 10 wins this season. She is also averaging 3.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.2 steals for the Wildcats. Hochwarter is on a strong stretch, scoring in double figures in four straight games. She’s hit 14 threes in that stretch, averaging 16.8 points per game.

Former Mansfield Hornet and Winnipeg Jets draft pick Erik Foley is enjoying another successful year at Providence. After an impressive freshman year (seven goals, 12 assists), he’s already topped his rookie point total during his sophomore year. He’s tied for a team-high 10 goals and also has 13 assists, good for 23 points – third for the Friars. Providence is 17-8-4 on the season and ranked #11 in the country.

With the NEWMAC Championships on the horizon next week, Taunton’s Kyle Werra and WPI’s men swimming team are looking to make a slash. Werra has competed in eight events for the Engineers so far this season. At the Clark University Cougar Invitational, Werra set three best times for the season. In the 200 free, he clocked in a 1:57.85, in the 100 breaststroke he touched the wall at 1:08.12 and in the 400 medley, he timed at 4:45.18.

Oliver Ames alum Caitlyn Abela continues to be a big piece for Saint Anselm. The Hawks, who have former Canton assistant Colleen Moriarty on the staff, stand at 15-8 on the season. Abela is second on the team at 10.9 points per game, scoring a season-high 23 earlier this year in a win at Daemen. She’s also averaged 3.3 rebounds a game this year (season-high 11 at Adelphi) and 1.1 assists (season-high 4 vs. NYIT).

A pair of former Hockomock rivals are now teammates at Merrimack. Franklin’s Lexi Martin and Attleboro’s Emily Houle are both contributing for the Warriors (11-11) this season. Martin, a sophomore, has started in all 22 games this season, averaging 8.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. She scored a season-high 19 points in a win over New Haven in early January and had a stretch in which she scored in double figures in six of eight games. Houle, a freshman and last year’s HockomockSports.com Girls Basketball Player of the Year, has played in 11 games, scoring five points in a game at Adelphi against former head coach Missy Traversi and hitting a three in a close win over St. Michael’s last week.

Former Mansfield Hornet Kevin Conner has scored 13 points in back to back games for Mount Ida heading into this week’s contest with Rivier. The Mustangs (14-8 overall) are currently in fourth place in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference. Conner, who was slowed by an injury to start the season, has started in every game he’s been available for. In a win at Rivier, Conner was a perfect 6/6 from the field and in a loss to conference-leading Albertus Magnus, Conner added 13 points including a pair of threes. In 17 games, Conner is averaging 8.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists a game.

Attleboro’s Kerri Beland is having a strong sophomore season for the Salve Regina women’s basketball game. The former Attleboro Bombardier is leading the Seahawks in scoring with 12.5 points per game, shooting 40% from the floor and 36% from three point. She’s also fourth on the team in rebounding with 5.3 boards.

Ever since the turn of the calendar, former Franklin standout Chris Rodgers has gone on a tear for WPI. After coming off the bench for the start of the season, Rodgers picked up his first start on December 6th. In his last seven starts, dating back to January 18th, Rodgers has been one of the Engineers top options on offense. He scored a season-high 23 points and hauled in nine rebounds in a narrow loss to Springfield and scored in double figures in six of those seven games. He’s averaging 15.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists in that span for WPI, who have four wins in that same stretch.