Cecchini Swims Her Way to All-State Accolades
Loretta Cecchini tried several different sports while growing up, but it wasn’t until 5th grade that she found one that clicked for her. As someone who has always enjoyed the water, Loretta found her niche in swimming.
“I never loved any of the other sports, but when I tried swimming, I ended up really liking it,” says Loretta. “I like how it’s a team sport, but still very individual, so whatever I put in is what I’ll get out.”
Loretta recently finished her swimming career as a senior at Valley Regional High School. When she was a freshman, the Chester resident joined the Old Lyme-Old Saybrook-Valley co-op girls’ swimming team, which practices in East Lyme.
Even though Loretta didn’t get to compete in a typical season with her team due to COVID restrictions in 2020, she continued to strive for her goal of reaching the 55-second range in the 100 freestyle. Despite the disruption to her training, Loretta reached her goal while earning All-State honors in the process this fall.
Loretta qualified for the Class M State Championship in both the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle, taking sixth place (25.95) and second place (55.73), respectively, while swimming personal-best times in each event and making All-State for the 100. Loretta was even more excited about her placings at states after comparing them to her sophomore season, when she placed 12th in both events.
“I was not expecting second, because there’s a lot of fast people, but I’d set a goal to get within a 55-second time a while ago,” Loretta says. “With COVID and not having a regular season the past two years, I didn’t expect to get there, so I was pretty proud that I was able to reach my goal. I never thought I could get into the medaling seeds.”
Despite the challenges of COVID, Loretta continued to train where she could. As a junior, her co-op team used a heated outdoor pool through mid-October, something that Loretta says was “not fun.” When it became too cold for that, the team held workout practices on land. There were just two meets in the 2020 season, and Loretta was quarantined for one of them.
COVID also affected Loretta’s offseason routine. Loretta has trained with the Cougar Aquatic Team, which practices at Haddam- Killingworth High School, ever since she started swimming, but those practices also had to be adapted.
“My coach from both high school and club helped me stay motivated and positive through COVID,” says Loretta. “They also have helped me with technique and to get better at swimming.”
Even though COVID still affected some of the team’s season this year, Loretta felt glad to be back in the pool. She was even happier to serve as a captain for the team.
“I feel like I served as a good role model for the freshmen and sophomores and was able to make the team closer as a whole,” Loretta says. “Last year had a lot of social distancing, and there were no group activities, but this year, I was able to bring the team closer together. We have a pretty small team, but everyone cheers each other on, and I’ll miss my team.”
Head Coach Rachel Mauthe describes Loretta as an ideal leader for her squad. Mauthe says that Loretta always ensured that things were going well for everyone both in and out of the water.
“Loretta made sure that all the girls on the team felt welcome, helped them with technique, and made sure that they were ready for meets,” says Mauthe. “Loretta is caring, and she helps build relationships. She made sure that each swimmer was buddied up with an older swimmer, and they made each other spirit boxes and posters.”
In addition to Loretta’s individual achievements, Coach Mauthe also credits the senior for contributing to the success of a pair of relay teams at the state meet. Loretta helped her 400 freestyle relay finish in fifth place and also contributed to a 10th-place performance for the 200 medley relay.
“Loretta was a major part of relays and a reason that our relays did so well,” says Mauthe. “She would typically anchor and would catch up to other teams or pull ahead and out-touch them at the end of the race. At states, she was our MVP, scoring the most points for the team.
Loretta is undecided about continuing to compete now that her time with the high school team is finished. The oldest of five, Loretta plans to study nursing since she looks up to her grandmother and aunts, who are nurses, and is currently exploring options for swimming in college.
“I’m looking to go into nursing, so I’m basing my decision more around that rather than sports,” Loretta says. “I’m talking to a few DIII coaches now and, hopefully, I’ll swim in college, but if not, I’d like to do a swim club just to continue swimming.”
Loretta may be done with her high school swimming career, but she still has two more seasons of competition in a Valley uniform as a member of the girls’ indoor and outdoor track teams. Inspired by her mom Ellen, who competed in the hurdles in college, Loretta decided to try track at Winthrop Middle School in 7th grade.
Since then, Loretta has continued to compete in both the hurdles and the pole vault. As a sophomore, Loretta qualified for states in the hurdles during the indoor season and then made states in the pole vault during her junior outdoor season.
Now a senior, Loretta is looking to continue improving her times in the hurdles and top the 7-foot, 6-inch mark in the pole vault as she takes aim at placing even higher in states. Loretta feels grateful for her coach Chris Allegretti for his support, guidance, and motivation, especially during the indoor track season, when the team mostly practices outside.
“Track is similar to swim in that it’s like an individual sport with different events,” Loretta says. “Indoor is a lot of work and, even though the meets are far away [at Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven], every time we go, the whole Shoreline [Conference] is there, so it’s social, and you make friends. It’s a ton of people, so it’s fun.”
Loretta also appreciates how her parents, Ellen and Jesse, as well as her younger siblings, come to her meets to cheer her on. When she isn’t competing, Loretta enjoys baking.
Loretta also recently joined the Best Buddies program at Valley that was started by one of her close friends. She knew she wanted to participate after enjoying being a part of Buddy Track as a freshman. The program is held during the school’s flex block.
“I like how inclusive it is with the whole school,” says Loretta. “You get to meet new people and do fun activities with people you didn’t know before.”
While she’s excited about graduating, Loretta is going to miss her days at Valley Regional. Loretta is making the most of her senior year, especially after she had missed out on some of her athletic career.
“I’m excited to graduate, but I feel like I missed a lot with sophomore and junior year sports getting mixed up with COVID without full seasons,” Loretta says. “I’ll miss my teammates.”