Talent across the board in ECC swimming

Waterford High School's Asia Langley wasted no time in making an impact last season as a freshman, winning the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly at the Class S state championship.

Generally, the Eastern Connecticut Conference girls' swimming seasonal story line is as follows: East Lyme High School wins the conference title, while Fitch gives its best fight.

The script changed drastically last season as Ledyard, Norwich Free Academy and Waterford all forced their way into the conversation at both the conference and state level.

The Connecticut Aquatic Club, the Mystic YMCA and Nutmeg Aquatics have all been churning out more and more quality swimmers, East Lyme coach Jack Stabach said, and area high schools are benefitting from it.

It's no longer the same-old, same-old in the ECC.

"I think it's pretty exciting," Stabach said. "If you look across the board, the talent is so much more prevalent than it was before. There's more talent. You may call it depth, but I think it's talent.

"A lot of kids are going to qualify for states this year."

East Lyme won its 12th straight conference title last season with Fitch finishing as runner-up. Both should finish atop the conference championship team standings again this season.

The area's best swimmer competes for Ledyard, however, in Jessica Hespeler. She dominated at both the regional and state level during her junior year, winning both the 200- and 500-yard freestyles at the CIAC State Open. She was an easy choice for The Day's 2011 Girls' Swimmer of the Year.

Waterford's Asia Langley wasted no time making an impact as a freshman last fall. She was a Class S champion in the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly.

NFA's Emma Buckridge also shined in her freshman season. She set school records in the 200 individual medley, 200 freestyle, 500 freestyle and swam a leg on the record-setting 200 medley relay. She was also the ECC's 200 individual medley champion.

East Lyme and Fitch will likely remain the ECC's best teams, though. East Lyme seniors Rachel Mauthe and Xingxin Zhang were members of the ECC champion 400 freestyle relay team, which placed eighth at Class M. Mauthe also finished third in the ECC 200 and 500 freestyle events at the ECC meet.

Vikings junior Caroline Gonsalves had a record-setting performance at last season's ECC diving championships (478.85 points). She was also third at Class M and sixth at the Open.

Fitch returns a strong trio in senior Sarah Ferguson, junior Jackie Kokomoor and sophomore Grace Moriarty. The three swam for the ECC champion 200 medley and 200 freestyle relay teams. They also placed fifth in the 200 free relay and sixth in the medley relay at Class L.

Moriarty also finished third in the 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley at the ECC championship.

"It's probably going to be just as it is every year," Waterford coach Brett Arnold said of the conference race. "You'll be looking at East Lyme. You'll be looking at Fitch.

"The Ledyard squad has good numbers and has a very talented swimmer in Jessica Hespeler. ... She's probably one of the best swimmers in the state.

"NFA has certainly made a lot of progress over the last few years. ... We've seen a rise in numbers since we're (swimming) back on campus."

n.griffen@theday.com

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