L/S excited to finish runner-up

GROTON — There were two raucous victory celebrations Saturday after the Eastern Connecticut Conference boys’ swimming final team scores were announced at the UConn-Avery Point pool Saturday.

Nearly as loud as East Lyme’s hoots in honor of winning its seventh straight ECC championship in overwhelming fashion with 532 points was the eruption of thunderous cheers that greeted the announcement that Ledyard/Stonington’s co-op team finished second with 313 points — six ahead of Fitch — in the seven-team meet.

The second place matches the best ECC championship finish for Ledyard/Stonington in the program’s 10-year history under coach Alan Opsahl. The 2007-08 team finished tied for second with Fitch in the regular season and edged the Falcons by 10 points for second in the conference championships.

Unlike the previous standard-setting team that was 12-2 and finished in a three-way tie with East Lyme and Fitch in the regular season, this L/S squad finished third, behind Fitch in the regular season with an 8-4, 7-4 ECC mark. L/S also lost twice in dual meets to the Falcons.

“Some other coaches had scored the meet based on seeding times and had Fitch slightly ahead of us,” Opsahl said. “For us to finish ahead of Fitch here, it’s the best we could have hoped for. Every place, the 14ths and the 16ths, counted for points, so it was a real team effort.”

Once again, the undermanned but talented Falcons, who have only 10 swimmers, showed that speed kills ... in terms of winning races and turning in impressive times. But L/S, taking a small page out of East Lyme’s title-meet winning formula, showed that depth kills, too.

Even though the Falcons won two relays and Fitch junior Dakota Williams was Swimmer of the Meet with an ECC record of 21.84 to win the 50-yard freestyle and a great time of 46.9 to win the 100 freestyle, L/S outscored Fitch despite lacking high finishes.

L/S did not have an individual finish in the top three and featured a pair of third-places in relays as top showings.

“Fitch has a few great individuals who are geared to win races,” said Stonington senior Collin Esquirol, who finished fifth in the 200 individual medley (2:15.99) and seventh in the 100 freestyle (52.93). “We are really excited to finish second. The co-op system here is working.”

L/S started well when its 200 medley relay team of Stonington’s Esquirol and John Moody, and Ledyard’s Frederick France and Jack Wheeler were third in 1:50.14.

The co-op proceeded to battle Windham/RHAM’s co-op for third for most of the meet, placing three or four swimmers in the points despite not challenging to win any event.

In ECC championships, the top 16 finishers in individual events score. The range goes from 20 points for first place to one point for 16th.

In the 200 freestyle, Ledyard’s Steven Boyd finished eighth (2:00.65) and Alex Green 10th (2:06.51). Stonington’s Sarah Morrison added a 14th with a 2:13.16 for three points.

In the 200 IM, Esquirol (2:15.19) took fifth, Ledyard’s Austin Carter was seventh in 2:24.81, Stonington’s Matt Planchon was 12th in 2:33.36 and Ledyard’s Jack Wheeler was 13th in 2:37.28. Fitch’s Aidan Ely won the race for 20 points, but Ledyard/Stonington’s four swimmers totaled 35, showing the importance of depth.

“When you can plug away with four getting points, your team score builds,” Opsahl said. “In some events, Fitch had no swimmers.”

Moody was seventh in the 50 free in 23.97, France was ninth, Stonington’s Alex Orf was 12th in 25.05 and Ledyard’s Tyler Harlow was 14th.

France and Carter placed seventh and 10th, respectively, in the 100 butterfly, and Stonington’s Gabby Fabian (1:10.51) and Amy Bridgham (1:13.44) added a key five and two points by finishing 12th and 15th, respectively.

In the 100 freestyle, Esquirol (52.93) and Boyd were seventh and eighth, and Orf was 12th in 55.85. In the 500 freestyle, Green (5:41.32) was ninth, Ledyard’s Tyler Harlow was 10th (5:50.99), Planchon 12th (5:58.59) and Stonington’s Ruby Robinson 15th in 6:08.83.

Ledyard/Stonington’s 200 free relay team of France, Boyd, Orf and Harlow shaved nearly seven seconds off its seeding time to finish third in 1:40.25. With three events left, L/S still trailed, but Moody’s fourth in the 100 backstroke (1:00.65) keyed a 26-12 scoring edge in that event. Morrison (1:06.94) was ninth and Fabian (1:12.55) was 15th.

Fitch didn’t have anyone in the 100 breaststroke, while Wheeler (1:12.52) and Hedman (1:16.45) were sixth and ninth, and Stonington’s Dylan LaPointe (1:20.11) and Robinson (1:22.50) were 14th and 16th.

That gave L/S a 26-0 edge in the breaststroke, more than compensating for Fitch earning 30 to win the last event, the 400 free relay. Esquirol, Boyd, Orf and Moody finished fifth for L/S in 3:39.44.

“East Lyme is obviously tough, so second is great,” Moody said. “Our depth prevailed.”

L/S swims in the Class L states on Thursday.

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