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North Stonington — It was a historic day for Wheeler High School athletics.
On the day Wheeler made its decision official to remain in the Eastern Connecticut Conference, its softball team won a state tournament game for the first time since 1991.
Athletic director Ellen Turner said Tuesday morning the school, which was weighing the option of applying for membership into the Constitution State Conference — a state-wide league that includes local schools Norwich Tech, Grasso Tech and Holy Family — decided the ECC remained the best fit for the Lions, who are the smallest school in the conference.
Turner said the ECC addressed one major concern by allowing Wheeler to opt out of games against some of the larger schools. Wheeler will not have to play five of its six "crossover" games among divisions next basketball season.
She said there were concerns about the amount of travel in the CSC, which has programs in Danbury, Waterbury and Milford.
"The ECC has a better variety of programs," Turner said. "The CSC doesn't offer boys' and girls' lacrosse or cheerleading. And then today, Abbott Tech was on the bus for two hours to play here."
Wheeler has been member of the ECC since the league expanded in 2000.
Turner said the school has been in discussions with St. Bernard officials to form a cooperative with its wrestling program next winter.
In addition, there is a possibility Wheeler could join Norwich Tech and St.Bernard as part of a three-school effort for the 2013-14 football season.
"We're hoping," Turner said. "There's been a three-team-thing in the past with Putnam, Ellis Tech and Tourtellotte."
The softball team, with a 13-8 record, plays in the second round of the Class S tournament today at top-seeded Cheney Tech of Manchester.
This is just Wheeler's eighth state tournament appearance in the last 28 seasons, the first since 2006.