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Another coronation for Vikings

By Vickie Fulkerson

Publication: The Day

Published November 03. 2013 4:00AM
Dana Jensen/The Day
East Lyme's Ugne Kirvelevicius swims to victory in the 100-yard breaststroke during Saturday's Eastern Connecticut Conference championship meet at UConn-Avery Point in Groton. The Vikings won their 14th straight team title.

Groton - Caroline Gonsalves, East Lyme High School senior, had her time to be nervous the night before during the diving portion of the Eastern Connecticut Conference swimming championships.

"I get really nervous, more nervous than I should," said Gonsalves, who won her third straight diving title with 432.95 points as the Vikings' divers finished first through fourth.

"... I wasn't too concerned about the score, I was more concerned about us finishing 1-2-3-4. I was really excited."

Gonsalves was able to relax a little more Saturday, as East Lyme's swimmers took over, clinching the team's 14th straight conference championship meet title with 612 points. Fitch/St. Bernard was second with 444 and Waterford third with 307.

East Lyme got wins from its 200-yard medley relay team of Meghan Volberg, Ugne Kirvelevicius, Tori Poole and freshman Gretchen Stelter (1 minute, 55.90 seconds) and from Kirvelevicius in the 100 breaststroke (1:11.29).

The day also belonged, in part, to Waterford junior Asia Langley, who wept upon learning she was named the ECC's Swimmer of the Meet for the second straight season. The award is based on a time-oriented formula for individual events only.

Langley won the 50 freestyle (24.60) and the 100 freestyle (53.30), dedicating the Swimmer of the Meet award to her former U.S. Swimming coach, Christine Pelham, who has been ill most of the past year.

"For me that was a lot. It gives me something for Christine, to go and tell her," Langley said.

And the meet was a day in which Fitch/St. Bernard junior Meredith Hird also made an impact. Hird is one of two St. Bernard students - along with Autumn Sutton - taking advantage of the school's first year as a cooperative program with Fitch.

Hird won all four of her events: the 200 individual medley (2:12.82), 100 butterfly (1:00.80), 200 free relay (1:41.40) and 400 free relay (3:44.18).

Also for Fitch, Jackie Kokomoor won the 200 freestyle (1:59.93) and contributed to both relay victories. Hird and Kokomoor were joined by Mikaela Dimaapi and Grace Moriarty in both relay wins, taking the 200 free relay in 1:41.40 (just shy of the ECC record of 1:41.31) and the 400 free relay in 3:44.18.

"It's been a great experience," said Hird, who is transported to practice with Sutton every day by St. Bernard athletic director Brendan Case, of swimming with the Fitch team. "The team is so welcoming. ... I knew the girl who won (the 200 IM) last year (Ledyard's Jessica Hespeler, the ECC record-holder) and I wanted to be like her."

"It's been the most exciting year as a senior and a captain," Kokomoor said. "Because of the co-op with St. Bernard, we were able to work off each other. Meredith and I were able to push each other to new, insane heights. I've never been such a good swimmer before."

Norwich Free Academy's Emma Buckridge won the 500 freestyle in 5:27.08 and Waterford's Meika Gathy the 100 backstroke in 1:05.63.

East Lyme, meanwhile, has 17 team members, including all four divers, who have qualified for the Class M state meet.

The Vikings had eight freshmen this season, which helped define the personality of the team, coach Jack Stabach said. Among them, Stelter was second in the 50 freestyle and fourth in the 100 freestyle and Alexis Dumais was second in the 500 free and 100 backstroke.

"They're my fabulous freshmen," Stabach said. "They're really funny. They didn't know what to expect with this high school thing. They're like little kids, but they swim like juniors or seniors. We've got a great future ahead of us."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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