East Lyme swimmers capture 18th straight ECC championship

East Lyme's Maeve Counter, left, hugs teammate Taylor Gray after finishing 1-2 in the 200-yard individual medley (Gray won in 2:15.69) and helping the Vikings win their 18th straight ECC swimming and diving championship on Saturday at UConn Avery Point in Groton. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
East Lyme's Maeve Counter, left, hugs teammate Taylor Gray after finishing 1-2 in the 200-yard individual medley (Gray won in 2:15.69) and helping the Vikings win their 18th straight ECC swimming and diving championship on Saturday at UConn Avery Point in Groton. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

Groton — It wasn't just something East Lyme High School swimming coach Jack Stabach saw in his team during a quick early morning workout Saturday that made him think the Vikings were going to come out with such ferocity.

"Not just this morning," Stabach said. "It's something we recognized the third week. These kids have desire. You know that expression, 'true grit?' They have true grit. They're fighters. They're very competitive."

East Lyme's Taylor Gray won two individual events to help lift the Vikings to their 18th straight Eastern Connecticut Conference championship meet victory with a resounding 605 points. East Lyme has never lost an ECC meet.

Waterford was second for the first time in program history with 370 points and claimed the Swimmer of the Meet, exuberant freshman Ella Dyjak, who also won a pair of individual events and unseated Gray, last year's top ECC swimmer, using a points-based formula.

Gray, a junior, won the 200-yard individual medley in 2 minutes, 15.69 seconds and the 100 breaststroke in 1:09.24, also swimming a leg on the winning 200 medley relay team along with Erin Munch, Katie Keating and Abigail Bessire (1:56.78).

East Lyme added wins from Mary Kathryn Taylor in the 100 butterfly (1:00.22), leading a 1-2-3 Vikings finish ahead of teammates Maeve Counter and Keating, and from the 200 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay teams. Taylor, Counter, Kate Orefice and Grace Vlaun finished first in the 200 free relay (1:42.89) and Taylor, Vlaun, Counter and Orefice won the 400 free relay (3:45.43).

Dyjak (200 freestyle, 500 freestyle) and Ledyard's Olivia Strelevitz (100 freestyle, 100 backstroke), joined Gray as double-winners.

"It's a good way to kind of get ready for the meet one last time, get pumped up," said Gray of the early morning tuneup at the East Lyme pool. "It's more mental preparation. ... All season we've had really good meets. Everyone in my lane at practice has been doing so well. We've been excited to come here."

Gray explained why coasting through the meet wasn't an option for her or any of her teammates, despite the lopsided final margin.

"Anyone could beat me," Gray said of that scenario. "I win here because I work hard. Anyone can beat you. I've been beaten so many times. Coming to this meet, I love it. I race with confidence because it's such a good team."

"We're still trying our best, looking for our best times," Taylor said.

The Vikings will swim the qualifying rounds of the Class M state championship meet next Saturday at Masuk, followed by the finals on Nov. 15 at Southern Connecticut.

Stabach noted the 1-2-3 finish in the butterfly, as well as a fourth-place finish in the 500 by senior captain Chara Proud, several seconds ahead of her personal best time.

"It's exciting," Stabach said. "I haven't coached a team like this in eight years, longer. They're all together. They're hard workers. They trust what I'll telling them to do. ... Amazing."

Waterford coach Brett Arnold meanwhile, said he knows there's something wrong with Dyjak, his star freshman, if he doesn't hear her chatter during practice. Prior to the final relay Saturday, Dyjak was dancing, clapping, cheering, chatting and high-fiving.

"She definitely keeps things interesting when she's on deck ... in a positive manner," Arnold said with a smile, adding that she's not a typical freshman with whom to converse. "She's a student of swimming, so she's comfortable talking about it."

Dyjak won the 200 freestyle in 1:55.95, edging Vlaun of East Lyme, a fellow freshman. The two swim together on the Connecticut Aquatic Club outside of high school.

"I've been around 2:00, so 1:55 is a personal best time for me," Dyjak said. "... I like to compete with Grace. I needed a little extra zoom at the end."

Dyjak also took the 500 in 5:09.78, not far off the ECC record of 5:02.34 held by former Ledyard All-American Jessica Hespeler (2011). The Lancers also got a victory from Sophia Podeszwa in Friday's diving portion of the meet with 458.45 points.

Strelevitz was the ECC defending champion in the backstroke and defended that title in 1:00.34. The 100 freestyle (54.62) was a new event for her.

"It drives me a little bit to push myself," Strelevitz said. "I've always been a backstroker; honestly, free's more fun."

Sydney Crawford won the 50 freestyle for Lyman/Windham.

v.fulkerson@theday.com

East Lyme High School swimmers cheer a teammate during Saturday's ECC swimming and diving championships at UConn Avery Point. The Vikings won their 18th consecutive title. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
East Lyme High School swimmers cheer a teammate during Saturday's ECC swimming and diving championships at UConn Avery Point. The Vikings won their 18th consecutive title. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

ECC SWIMMING AND DIVING CHAMPIONSHIP

At UConn Avery Point

Team results

1. East Lyme, 605; 2. Waterford, 370; 3. Fitch, 301.5; 4. Ledyard, 257; 5. NFA, 222.5; 6. Lyman/Windham, 140; 7. Stonington, 50; 8. St. Bernard, 13.

Individual results

200-yard medley relay — 1. East Lyme (Erin Munch, Taylor Gray, Katie Keating, Abigail Bessire), 1:56.78; 2. Fitch, 3. Ledyard, 4. Waterford, 5. NFA, 6. Lyman/Windham.

200 freestyle — 1. Ella Dyjak (Waterford), 1:55.95; 2. Grace Vlaun (East Lyme), 3. Alyson Lowney (Fitch), 4. Jayne Darras (Waterford), 5. Emma Vlaun (East Lyme), 6. Ashwini Sahasrabudhe (East Lyme).

200 individual medley — 1. Gray (East Lyme), 2:15.69; 2. Maeve Counter (East Lyme), 3. Maddie Johanson (Ledyard), 4. Gloria Ng (NFA), 5. Hope Sowle (Stonington), 6. Munch (East Lyme).

50 freestyle — 1. Sydney Crawford (Lyman/Windham), 25.38; 2. Mary Kathryn Taylor (East Lyme), 3. Kate Orefice (East Lyme), 4. Lauren Real (East Lyme), 5. Keating (East Lyme), 6. Paulomi Sardar (Fitch).

Diving — 1. Sophia Podeszwa (Waterford), 458.45; 2. Anna Ciriello (NFA), 3. Anna Johnson (East Lyme), 4. Megan Opsahl (East Lyme), 5. Katie Shaughnessy (Fitch), 6. Tallah Ryan (Waterford).

100 butterfly — 1. Taylor (East Lyme), 1:00.22; 2. Counter (East Lyme), 3. Keating (East Lyme), 4. Kylie Heard (Fitch), 5. Danielle Millerick (Fitch).

100 freestyle — 1. Olivia Strelevitz (Ledyard), 54.62; 2. G. Vlaun (East Lyme), 3. Orefice (East Lyme), 4. Darras (Waterford), 5. Sardar (Fitch), 6. Real (East Lyme).

500 freestyle — 1. Dyjak (Waterford), 5:09.78; 2. Elyse Gathy (Waterford), 3. Lowney (Fitch), 4. Chara Proud (East Lyme), 5. Sahasrabudhe (East Lyme), 6. Hannah Yousuf (East Lyme).

200 freestyle relay — 1. East Lyme (Taylor, Counter, Orefice, G. Vlaun), 1:42.89; 2. Waterford, 3. Fitch, 4. Ledyard, 5. NFA, 6. Lyman/Windham.

100 backstroke — 1. Strelevitz (Ledyard), 1:00.34; 2. Crawford (Lyman/Windham), 3. Sowle (Stonington), 4. Gathy (Waterford), 5. Munch (East Lyme), 6. Victoria Chen (East Lyme).

100 breaststroke — 1. Gray (East Lyme), 1:09.24; 2. Johanson (Ledyard), 3. Ng (NFA), 4. Amelia Kozlowski (East Lyme), 5. Viviana Martinez (Waterford), 6. Mariah Bibalo (East Lyme).

400 freestyle relay — 1. East Lyme (Taylor, G. Vlaun, Counter, Orefice), 3:45.43; 2. Waterford, 3. Fitch, 4. NFA, 5. Ledyard, 6. Lyman/Windham. 

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