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Groton - The end of the high school swimming season is still more than a month and a half away and East Lyme coach Jack Stabach is looking for ways to keep his team's attention.
"It's a long season," Stabach said. "The coach is trying to make it not so boring. I can only pull so many rabbits out of the hat. The rest is up to them if they want to do well. ... This is the closest we've ever come. We've got a shot at winning (the Class M state championship)."
And so, in keeping his team in training mode, Stabach held a 7:30 a.m. practice Saturday in spite of a scheduled 10:45 a.m. meet against Ledyard/Stonington for first place in the Eastern Connecticut Conference.
East Lyme won 91-75, behind two individual wins and a pair of relay victories from Zach Kosakowski, remaining undefeated in the ECC at 6-0 (9-2 overall).
"We need to practice any time we can get in the water," Stabach said. "Is it going to hurt them here? No. Is it going to help them at states? Yes."
Kosakowski won the 100-yard butterfly (59.75 seconds) and the 100 breaststroke (1:09.10), swimming that event for just the second time this season.
He joined Clayton Otter, Eric Stirtan and Mark Chmielewski in winning the 200 medley relay in 1:48.63 and was a member of the first-place 200 free relay (1:41.52), joining Austin Toback, Benas Kirvelevicius and Ethan Opsahl.
Christopher Naktenis won the 200 freestyle for East Lyme in 2:00.57, Otter the 200 IM (2:12.80), Stirtan the 50 free (23.65) and Kirvelevicius the 500 free (5:28.96).
Collin Esquirol won the 100 freestyle for Ledyard in 53.93, John Moody the 100 backstroke (1:03.72) and Moody, Alex Orf, Steven Boyd and Alex Green took the 400 free relay (4:00.10).
Ledyard was coming off a 101-84 victory over Windham/Coventry/RHAM on Friday night, while East Lyme topped Waterford 98-78. The Saturday meet was a makeup date from earlier in the season.
"We were pumped up for that meet," Ledyard coach Alan Opsahl said of Windham. "We beat them here with no diving, so we were going up there and they had three divers; they got 11 points on us just there. I was pretty nervous."
As for the matchup with East Lyme: "I know East Lyme pretty well, obviously (his twin sons swim for the Vikings), so I knew what kind of depth they had," Opsahl said.
A number of the East Lyme swimmers took a training trip to Barbados over Christmas break with the Nutmeg Swim Team.
"We came back from that super excited and pumped," said Otter, a senior for the Vikings. "Now we have a whole month until our championship, but we're almost there. I just look to my teammates for their enthusiasm. The state meet is something we're looking toward; it keeps us hungry with everything."
Otter, who also swam the backstroke in exhibition, meaning his winning time didn't count, said Saturday morning's workout was harder than normal.
"We do it a lot," Otter said. "If we have a later meet, we'll come and do a longer warmup at our pool, then when we get here we just do a couple turns and we're ready to go. ... Today was a good meet for most of us; I did better than the last meet, so it was a good meet for me. That's what makes it fun: when we get good times."