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Riley Powell is a senior captain for the North Haven boys’ swimming and diving team after previously holding that role with the boys’ soccer squad last fall. In the spring, Riley will captain the Indians’ boys’ tennis team in tandem with his doubles partner Matt Carroll. (Photo courtesy of Riley Powell )
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From the second he stepped foot in North Haven High School, Riley Powell had designs on leading all three of his teams as a captain by the time his senior year arrived. Well, Riley is now a senior and, as a result of all the work he put in during the past three years, his dream has become a reality. Riley captained North Haven boys’ soccer as its starting goalie last fall, is leading the swimming and diving team as a senior captain this winter, and will reprise his leadership role on the tennis court in the spring.
“It was a goal of mine to be a captain for each of my teams, and I worked hard throughout every season with every team. I tried to be a leader. Even though I wasn’t a senior yet, I tried to push all my teammates on all my teams, and it was an honor when I was named a captain for every team,” says Riley. “The last one I found out was tennis, and I was ecstatic knowing that I’d reached my goal and had the privilege of leading three North Haven teams on the field, in the pool, and on the court.”
Riley is currently leading the Indians in the pool, and Head Coach Martha Phelan appreciates the demeanor he brings to the team. Phelan says that Riley is a vocal captain who keeps everyone loose, but when things get serious, Riley has a knack for saying the right thing to give his cohorts a motivational boost.
“Riley has a great sense of humor and can laugh at himself, but he’s also always the first one to recognize his teammates and their accomplishments. And if they’re not having a good moment or a good practice, he is always encouraging,” Phelan says. “Riley is always able to somehow tell a story or give advice that lifts up his teammates. He’s very positive.”
Riley’s swims the 100 breaststroke both individually and as part of North Haven’s 200 medley relay, in addition to competing in the 400 freestyle relay and 500 freestyle. Still, Riley’s primary event is the breaststroke. It’s a technically demanding event, but one that he’s learned the finer points of throughout his time at North Haven.
“As I’ve gotten older, it’s become more natural for me and, even though it’s one of the most technical strokes out there, it’s a challenge that I was willing to face, and I worked hard to improve and become better at it,” Riley says. “When I got to high school, Martha worked with me and critiqued the way I moved my arms and shot my hands forward through the water, and that really changed my technical ability and helped me drop my time.”
Riley dropped his breaststroke time to a lifetime-best of 1:08.24 at the Class M Trials last year, after which he posted a mark of 1:08.89 at the Class M State Championship. Riley says that he’s aiming to set another personal-record time (PR) during this year’s postseason meets.
“When I saw that I had dropped my time, it was an amazing feeling to swim a PR at the state meet. It felt great to keep improving throughout the season and help the team in states by dropping my time and scoring points for the team,” Riley says. “I’m really hoping to drop my time again once the postseason hits. I would love to PR before the season is over and maybe get a 1:06.”
While Riley has improved in the breaststroke, the Indians have also made gigantic strides as a team during the past few seasons. North Haven only put two victories in the win column during his first year, but the team recently capped off a quality regular season that saw it notch a record of 7-4.
“When I started as a freshman, we only had two wins and, throughout my four years of swimming, we have improved greatly. We’ve picked up some very strong swimmers and have all stepped up to make it to this point,” Riley says. “Being 7-4 with an above .500 record, that was a goal for the team since day one, since we first got in the pool. It’s great to have accomplished something like this, knowing how much we’ve improved and how much the kids on the team stepped up for us to be where we are today.”
Riley has also played a heavy hand in helping the North Haven boys’ tennis team reach new plateaus in recent seasons. In each of his three years on the squad, the Indians have qualified for the Class L State Championship.
Riley took up tennis at the High Lane Club in North Haven, which is also where he started swimming. He played many singles matches against his friend Matt Carroll at the club, and that paid dividends for the duo when they joined forces on the doubles court in high school. Riley and Matt held down the No. 2 doubles spot in their sophomore years and then played the bulk of their matches at No. 1 doubles last spring. They wound up earning earned All-SCC Division II accolades for their performance on the season.
“It’s a lot more competitive to play 1 doubles than 2 doubles, but it pushed us to be even better. We saw the competition and both just stepped up our game to work even harder to improve ourselves…We were able to compete with the other doubles teams, and that’s what helped us get that All-SCC honor,” says Riley, who also made All-SCC Hammonasset Division and the All-SCC Second Team for soccer as a senior. “That meant a lot to me. That was the first SCC team I ever made and it just felt great, especially since it was my junior year and we still have one more year to show that we deserve to be All-SCC again. To be picked out of a handful of all the kids that play in the SCC for that was just amazing.”
Last year, Riley earned an honorable distinction outside of the athletic arena at North Haven High School. Since the 6th grade, Riley has been part of Best Buddies, an organization that provides opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities by pairing them up with a volunteer to serve as a friend and mentor. As a result of his service with Best Buddies, Riley was North Haven’s male recipient of the Athletes as Allies Award that was presented by the Diversity Club for the 2016-’17 winter season.
“Being a part of Best Buddies has taught me so much about helping out people in need, and it’s meant a lot to me over the years. I keep doing it because I love being around them, helping them, and learning from them,” Riley says. “When I received that award, it was privilege to be seen as someone who gives back not just in sports, but also in the community with kids who have disabilities and need help.”
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