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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    The Day’s All-Area Boys’ Swimmer of the Year: Fitch co-op’s Evan Hespeler

    Evan Hespeler, a junior on the Fitch High School cooperative team, won the 100-yard backstroke and the 100 butterfly at the Eastern Connecticut Conference Invitational, being honored as the league’s Swimmer of the Meet. Hespeler was named The Day’s 2024 All-Area Swimmer of the Year. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Fitch’s Evan Hespeler competes in the 100-yard butterfly during a dual swim meet at UConn Avery Point on Jan. 9. Hespeler won two individual events and was part of two first-place relays at this year’s ECC Invitational, being named Swimmer of the Meet. Hespeler, a junior, took on a starring role for the Falcons this season both in the pool and as a leader. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    After graduating several key swimmers last season, the Fitch High School cooperative swimming and diving team relied on Evan Hespeler to step into a far larger role both in the pool and as a leader.

    Being selected as The Day’s 2024 All-Area Swimmer of the Year as a junior, Hespeler used this season to show what he could do.

    Fifth-year head coach for the Falcons, Katey Kokomoor, said: “Not only had his times gotten better, his form got better, but he grew so much as a leader, as well. I’ve really seen him mature since he was a freshman.”

    Hespeler showed his versatility and determination to win at the Eastern Connecticut Conference Swimming & Diving Invitational on Feb. 24, where he was named Swimmer of the Meet. In his dominating performance, Hespeler won the 100-yard butterfly (55.63 seconds) and 100 backstroke (56.55 seconds), both personal bests, and was part of the winning 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay teams.

    The 200 medley relay went on to finish fifth in the Class M state championship in 1:42.72.

    “It really is a coach’s dream,” Kokomoor said of Hespeler’s versatility. “Especially with a small team, putting together a roster is like a chess game. ... Having someone like Evan that you can really put anywhere just makes my job so much easier.”

    Kokomoor said she saw Hespeler’s potential early as a freshman and she had him competing in varsity meets nearly right away. Hespeler knew he could be successful far before that.

    “I’d say at 10 years old, when I was swimming for the Mystic (YMCA) Hammerheads,” Hespeler said of when he began to take the sport seriously. “They hosted a New England regional tournament and I placed fourth in my age group; that was a pretty big deal for me. I kept winning from there and got really competitive.”

    Hespeler has been a member of the Hammerheads since he was 8 and continues to swim for the club team. He attributes a great portion of his success to coach Bryan Levine and the rest of the staff. He will be going back this summer to train with them in preparation for his final high school season.

    On top of the increased load Hespeler had to carry in the pool this season, he had to become a vocal leader for his teammates.

    Hespeler said: “I had to really drive them (teammates) to be the best they could be and really commit to what we were doing. In my heart we were the ECC champions (there was no team champion crowned this year), so I pushed that as much as I could.”

    A Groton resident but a student at the Marine Science Magnet High School, Hespeler is part of a co-op between Fitch, St. Bernard, Stonington and Wheeler. Some may think that it would be hard to create chemistry on a team sourced from five different schools, including Marine Science, but Hespeler and the Falcons have proven otherwise.

    “I like having people from all different schools. Going to Marine Science, that’s what it is already, people are from all over. I think it allows for more diversity and I get a chance to swim with my friends (from Groton) like William O’Donnell and others who I wouldn’t get a chance to be with if I wasn’t there.”

    Going into next season, the Falcons return nearly everyone, giving them a chance to fill out their roster. Hespeler is looking to make a statement in his final season and hopefully gain traction from college scouts.

    “I want to go all-state in a relay again, because I did it with Mike (Urgo, 2023 All-Area Swimmer of the Year) last year, or all-state individually. I really just want to drop time and make a run at college. I want to show coaches that I can be valuable to a good team,” Hespeler said.

    Hespeler plans to pursue aerospace engineering and has interest in Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, along with the Air Force and Naval academies, although that is subject to change as he develops into a collegiate swimming prospect in the near future.

    z.cunningham@theday.com

    The Day’s 2024 All-Area Boys’ Swimming and Diving Team

    Player of the Year - Evan Hespeler (Fitch co-op)

    200-yard medley relay - Fitch co-op (Evan Hespeler, Gabriel Pacheco, William O’Donnell, Sterling Welsh)

    200 freestyle, 500 freestyle - William O’Donnell (Fitch co-op)

    200 individual medley, 100 breaststroke - Gabriel Pacheco (Fitch co-op)

    50 freestyle - Sterling Welsh (Fitch co-op)

    100 butterfly - Alexander Startz (Waterford/Ledyard)

    100 freestyle - Eduardo Morcos (East Lyme/NFA)

    200 freestyle relay - Fitch co-op (Sterling Welsh, William O’Donnell, Gabriel Pacheco, Evan Hespeler

    400 freestyle relay - Fitch co-op (Sterling Welsh, John Chirico, William O’Donnell, Evan Hespeler)

    Utility - Connor Foerster (East Lyme/NFA), Ethan Jones (Waterford/Ledyard)

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