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Groton - Asia Langley was just climbing down off the starting blocks, which double as the medal stand at the Eastern Connecticut Conference swim meet, getting ready to head back to a post-meet team huddle.
That's when public address announcer Scott Black named Langley, a Waterford High School sophomore, as the Swimmer of the Meet. Langley stopped in her tracks with her mouth hanging open, as Fitch swimmer Grace Moriarty, who was wearing a crown at the time - the swimmers sometimes adorn themselves with funny props prior to picking up their awards - promptly popped the crown on Langley's head.
"The biggest surprise ever," Langley said.
East Lyme won its 13th straight ECC title Saturday at UConn-Avery Point, although the scoring will not be final until Monday afternoon's diving event. Melinda Wei won the 100-yard breaststroke for the Vikings, who finished the 12 swimming events with 502.5 points.
Fitch, second with 327.5 points after sweeping the three relays, does not have any divers competing Monday. Waterford is third with 296, followed by Ledyard (265) and Norwich Free Academy (257).
Ledyard senior Jessica Hespeler, who committed earlier in the week to attend Virginia Tech on a partial swimming scholarship, set meet records in both her events, taking the 200 individual medley in 2 minutes, 11.42 seconds and the 100 freestyle in 52.99.
The Swimmer of the Meet is decided based on power points, however, rewarding the highest total of points to times which rank the highest on a national scale. That is likely where Langley gained her edge over Hespeler.
Langley won the 50 freestyle in a meet record 24.08 seconds, not far off the All-America time standards of 23.47 (automatic) and 23.85 (consideration). She also won the 100 butterfly in 1:01.22.
"She's my role model. She's who I look up to," Langley said of Hespeler, who is her teammate on the Connecticut Aquatic Club.
East Lyme coach Jack Stabach has often talked about how impressed he is with Langley's strong turns.
"She just breaks out," Stabach said. "She has a lot of momentum and using the momentum is key in the 50 and the 100. She's a master of using the momentum."
As for East Lyme, Wei was the top performer, winning the breaststroke in 1:14.53 and then swimming again in the next event as the anchor for the Vikings' 4x400 relay team which was third. She was also second in the IM to Hespeler.
East Lyme also had Rachel Mauthe (third, 200 freestyle; second, 500 freestyle), Delia Terry (third, 200 IM), Emma Magna (tied for third, 50 freestyle), Tori Poole (second, 100 butterfly) and Meghan Volberg (second, 100 backstroke) break into the top three. Terry, Xingxin Zhang, Mauthe and Caeleigh Jennings serve as the Vikings' captains.
"They're great kids. They care about each other a lot," Stabach said of the swimmers that make up his team. "They really want to do well. They work hard. They're not rough and tumble like the boys I have (Stabach also coaches the East Lyme boys' swim team).
"If I had to characterize them, I'd say they're kind of classy and sweet."
Fitch's Grace Moriarty won the 200 freestyle and Sarah Ferguson the 100 backstroke and the two of them swam on all three of Fitch's winning relays, as well. Jackie Kokomoor also swam on all three winning relays, while Madison Terminesi joined the trio for the medley relay and Mikaela Dimaapi for the two freestyle relays.
NFA's Emma Buckridge won the 500 freestyle.
For Hespeler, it was the final meet of a decorated ECC career. She now owns meet records in the 100, 200 and 500 freestyles and 200 IM medley. She was the Class M state 500 freestyle champion and the State Open champion in the 200 and 500 last season, although she said she plans to focus on the 100 and 200 this year.