Vikings remain unbeaten, capture ECC swimming title with win over Fitch/Stonington/NL
East Lyme — East Lyme High School swimming coach Jack Stabach is retired now from his job as director of the East Lyme Aquatics and Fitness Center. So what does he do all day?
"Figure out ways to do better at swimming," Stabach said with a laugh.
His calculations, apparently, are going pretty well. The Vikings remained unbeaten Friday with a 97-77 victory over the Fitch/Stonington/New London cooperative team and captured the Eastern Connecticut Conference title, too, which Stabach and his captains announced to the rest of the team following the meet.
East Lyme is 10-0 overall, 9-0 in the ECC, two wins ahead of Fitch (7-2, 7-2) with only one league meet remaining. The Vikings have now won all 20 ECC championships since the swimming became a fall sport in 2000.
"A lot of us kind of had an idea we could win," senior captain Katie Keating said. "I think everyone did really well (Friday). It was a tough week of practice."
Stabach speaks a lot about the character of his athletes.
"Character's a virtue," said Stabach, in his 21st season. "It's something we should all strive to be. I told the kids last year, 'Don't assume your bed's going to get made. Get up and make it.' At the banquet at the end of the year, I asked them to raise their hand if they made their bed that morning and a lot more raised it than did at the beginning.
"They're going to be successful. All of them. They have a good sense of humor. There's nobody hiding when it gets hard."
Keating was a prime example on Friday. She won all four of her races, two individual events and two relays.
Keating teamed with Hiruni Jayawickreme, Nikki Hahn and Sandra Kirvelevicius to win the 200-yard medley relay in 2 minutes, 2.78 seconds. She then won the 50 freestyle (26.73), the 100 butterfly (1:02.63) and, finally, contributed to the winning 200 free relay team, joining Hahn, Grace Vlaun and Lauren Hinckley (1:46.19).
Keating, who is 5-foot-3, is the defending ECC champion in the butterfly, which she won Friday by more than eight seconds — "Ever since I was 10, I had to do the fly; it's just the stroke I click with," Keating said. Despite her height, Keating adds length to her strokes both in the fly and the freestyle.
"She's determined," Stabach said of Keating. "There's a lot of adjectives to describe her. She has a high threshold of pain. She can push herself. She doesn't get discouraged when she doesn't have the best race. She's a very hard worker. ... The past two weeks it's been hard."
Vlaun, a junior, won the 100 freestyle (55.88) and the 200 free (2:03.84) for East Lyme, Hahn took the 200 individual medley (2:22.66) and Anna Johnson the diving. The Vikings swam the final two events as exhibition.
Alyson Lowney won the 500 freestyle (5:41.73) for Fitch, Delaney Reck the 100 backstroke (1:05.14) and Rebecca Lowney the 100 breaststroke (1:29.75). The Falcons also took the 400 free relay in 4:11.70.
It's the first season for Fitch under head coach Molly Condron, a 2013 graduate of Cheshire High School and a member of the Rams' Class LL runner-up team in 2012. Condron, a seventh-grade science teacher at West Side Middle School in Groton, went on to swim on a scholarship at the University of Vermont, where she specialized in the backstroke and the distance freestyle.
She called Friday's meet, taking her smaller co-op team against a larger team of Vikings "a little intimidating."
"But our girls we put up are always strong," Condron said. "They've done an excellent job. It's a great group of girls. They have a lot of personality. It's been a learning experience, but fun."
East Lyme, meanwhile, has one ECC race remaining Tuesday against Waterford before facing Class L power Wethersfield to end the regular-season. Wethersfield beat East Lyme, a Class M team, 99-79 last season and Stabach believes that dual meet, in particular, will open some eyes prior to the Vikings taking on the postseason.
"I don't think we've beaten them in a few years," Stabach said. "That will show us what we're looking for in states."
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