Three local student-athletes were crowned champions at the state swimming championships at Brown University in February — and they all had a connection.

CJ Sheldon, Drew Jalbert and Hannah Benavides all swam for the Ocean Community YMCA Dolphins swim team.

Their accomplishments have been selected as The Sun's No. 3 sports story of the year.

"It's definitely really cool that a lot of the swimmers from the Westerly area and Chariho, like Matt Stanley, have been so good for so long," said Jalbert, who lives in Westerly and is now a junior at Prout.

Stanley was a former state champion at Chariho.

Sheldon, who lives in Ashaway and swims for Bishop Hendricken, won the 50-meter freestyle in 21.17 seconds, breaking the state record previously held by Westerly's Logan Hellwig — another YMCA Dolphin.

Sheldon, a junior, also won the 100 free in 46.69 and anchored two winning relays: the 400 freestyle (3:14.67) and the 200 free (1:28.88). Hendricken easily won the team title with 426 points, and Barrington was second with 329. Hendricken has won the state title 30 of the last 31 years.

Sheldon was especially proud of the state record.

"I definitely knew they would be coming for me, so coming into this week, I really had to focus on what I was going to do," he said. "Through this season I’ve had a few choppy swims, but everything just fell together at states."

Jalbert, who swims for the South County co-op, won the grueling 200 individual medley in 1:55.17. The race features all four strokes: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle.

"Last weekend I swam it and went really, really fast on the first 50, and so by the end my whole body was numb and tingling," said Jalbert, who also won the state title in the race last season. "So the plan this time was not to go out as fast, but still get enough of a lead so I could hold on to it the whole race."

Jalbert finished strong to top the field in the 100 breaststroke in 59.27.

He also swam a leg on the 200 medley relay that placed fifth (1:42.21) and the 200 freestyle relay that was fourth (1:32.49). South County Co-op finished sixth in the team standings with 134 points.

Benavides, who is now a senior, captured the state title in the 100 breaststroke in 1:05.42.

"It feels pretty good. The girls on either side of me did really well. The times were close. I think it was a really good race," she said.

Benavides, Chariho's lone swimmer, also placed third in the 200 individual medley in 2:10.34.

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