Fitch tops East Lyme, takes control of ECC boys' swimming race
East Lyme — John Marcolina didn't know the score, which hadn't been updated on the scoreboard following the previous event. But, headed into the finale of Tuesday's swim meet, the 400-yard freestyle relay, he didn't want to know anyway.
"I had no idea," said Marcolina, a senior for the Fitch/Stonington/Ledyard/Norwich Tech cooperative team. "I was focussed on the relay. I'm usually pretty gassed going into it, so I told AJ to make sure he got ahead of 'em."
Fitch, leading by a point, needed a win in the relay to knock off East Lyme and clinch at least a share of the Eastern Connecticut Conference title. Sam Heilig, Keegan Reck, AJ Murko and Marcolina accomplished exactly that.
Marcolina led a 1-2 finish in the 100 breaststroke for Fitch to take an 83-82 lead and then, gassed, swam the anchor leg of the winning 400 free relay team in the very next event — inheriting the lead from Murko — as the Falcons won the meet 91-88 to remain unbeaten at 8-0 overall and 8-0 in the conference.
That completed a season sweep of defending ECC champion East Lyme (6-2, 5-2), which Fitch also topped 92-78 on Jan. 15.
This time, with the meet being held at East Lyme, Fitch had to overcome a 10-0 East Lyme advantage in diving. Diving is not held in meets at UConn Avery Point, Fitch's home, and the Falcons have no divers on their team this season.
That gives Fitch a two-meet lead over East Lyme for first place with two league meets remaining.
"We just knew there wasn't much room for error," Marcolina said. "We won by three points. We knew we had to come here and perform well. ... The end goal is always ECC (the league championship meet March 2). We know we've got a good shot (now) going into ECCs. That's when everyone's going the fastest."
Marcolina won the 100 butterfly (54.71), 100 breaststroke (1:03.74) and led two relay victories, freshman Ben Chidley finished second to his teammate in the breaststroke, helping to swing the meet in the Falcons' favor, and Fitch collected wins in all three of the relays. A relay victory is worth eight points, compared to six in other events.
"You have to shake your head ... they came today wearing their fast suits. Usually you save that for a championship meet. They wanted to win this," Fitch coach Ken Berg said of his team. "How could you ask for anything more than that?
"(East Lyme) swam great. We both swam great. We did what we have to do."
Murko, Marcolina, Keegan Reck and Joe Vignato won the 200 medley relay in 1:45.28, while the 200 free relay team of Max Cartier, Heilig, Ian Sanok and Vignato also finished first in 1:37.05. Vignato added a victory in the 50 freestyle (23.90).
Berg, who said he used a different lineup against the Vikings than the first meeting this season, choosing a different B team for the medley relay (which finished third), was complimentary of several of his swimmers.
"The reason we were up a point was because of the breaststroke," Berg said. "Ben Chidley, he's a freshman, his dad is a teacher at Fitch. John and him."
And then there was Murko, who got Marcolina the lead going into the anchor leg of the last relay.
"He pulled that last relay up, didn't he?" Berg said.
And of Marcolina himself.
"He's a monstrous kid."
"Everybody on the team wants to give it their all," Murko said.
East Lyme's Jack Lombardo won the 200 freestyle (1:55.27) and the 500 freestyle (5:18.25) and teammate Bobby Hahn also earned a pair of wins, taking the 200 individual medley (2:04.88) and the 100 freestyle (51.13). Freshman Ryan McLaughlin won the diving portion of the meet for the Vikings and Ryan Huang the 100 backstroke (56.99).
"We swam a lot better today," East Lyme coach Rob Bouchey said. "Collectively, we lost the last meet and, collectively, we performed better today. It was more representative of us as a team. As a group, we grew from that first meet.
"(Fitch is) looking strong. That's a testament to coach Berg in his last year. Congratulations to him. But we've made leaps. Sometimes you learn more from losing. We definitely threw our best at 'em."
Fitch 8-0, 8-0
EL 6-2, 5-2
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