STRATFORD—It was just about 15 months ago when Rosemery Nieto walked into the Flood Middle School pool for the first time with her new Bunnell High school teammates.
“It was like a birthday present and a Christmas present all wrapped into one,” Bulldogs girls swim coach Adam Fielding joked.
Nieto had emerged onto the FCIAC swim scene as a freshman swimmer at Westhill during the 2017 season, where she finished 11th in the Class LL state swim meet in the 100 breaststroke.
Her arrival at Bunnell gave the Bulldogs a legitimate top-line swimmer that could create a wake for other swimmers to follow.
“I think she’s a really big motivator,” said Bunnell senior captain Lili Dowell. “It’s not just swim-wise, either, but she’s such a good person, too. She’s really humble.”
A year ago, as a sophomore, Nieto—whose family relocated to Stratford when they bought a house in town—just missed being named All-State in the 100 breast when she finished fourth in the Class L championship meet.
Her time of 1:07.42 set a school record, an effort she matched with a 16th-place finish in the 100 butterfly in 1:01.25, as well.
Come Saturday, Nieto will again lead the Bulldogs into the big-meet portion of its schedule.
“I looked at her the other day and said, ‘It’s Rose time now,’” Fielding said. “She looked up and said, ‘Yup, I’ve been waiting for it.’”
It starts with the SWC championship meet at Masuk High School before the Bulldogs head to the Class M championships later this month.
“My major goal is to get All-State,” Nieto said. “And I want to break my school records that set last year.”
To watch Nieto dive off the blocks, hit the water and compete, one has to wonder if she is a breaststroker who does butterfly, or a fly swimmer who also does the breaststroke.
“I think I’ve gone through a metamorphosis,” Nieto said. “I last, I didn’t think I was a good butterfly swimmer, so I started experimenting with some things and I found I was good at it. This year, I’m kind of on the edge about it. I’m not sure if I enjoy the breaststroke as much as I enjoy the fly, but it’s my safe event.”
That change has become because Nieto is a student of the sport, learning more from each and every coach she has had over her career.
Nieto is a serious swimmer because she takes swimming seriously.
She began the sport as a 9-year-old with the New Canaan YMCA, jumping in headfirst and getting better every season.
“I’ve been swimming practically my whole life,” Nieto said. “I knew I wanted to continue my career in high school, so when we moved to Stratford I did my homework and didn’t want to go into it blindly, so I knew I wanted to swim at Bunnell.”
Nieto is still swimming club with the Shelton-Monroe Rapids, but she enjoys the team camaraderie of high school swimming a lot.
“I love it here,” Nieto said. “I enjoy swimming more in a team atmosphere than as an individual. That’s why I love high school swimming more.”
The Bunnell has enjoyed having Nieto as part of the team, not just because of the point she scores each meet but because of the impact she’s having on the entire program.
“Rose is always fantastic,” Fielding said. “She’s always happy, bubbly. She’s a natural leader. She works her tail off. She’ll do whatever we ask her to do at different meets. She the glue that holds us together competitively.”
And younger swimmers who watch Nieto work see the expectations that are expected of its swimmers.
“I think we’ve improved greatly in the last year, but it’s not just because of me,” Nieto said. “It’s the other girls. We’ve all improved a lot and the new freshmen class is pretty incredible, too.”
Where swimming will take Nieto in the future is still undecided.
She’s leaving the option to swim in college open, depending on what school she picks and attends.
“Sometimes I debate on it,” she said. “But in the long run, if I enjoy the program and enjoy the school, I’ll probably do it.”
She’s enjoyed being a part of the upstart Bunnell program and that has paid off for the Bulldogs over the past two seasons.
Of course, there is a full senior season ahead of Nieto, as well, before the rest of her life comes calling.
“Ah, being a senior,” Nieto said. “I’m terrified to go out into the real world, but I’m looking forward to it, too.”
The metamorphosis of Rosemery Nieto is still ongoing, in the pool and in life.
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