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Elated to stay in their lane: Suffolk swimmers back in the pool

Eddie Smith of Connetquot wins the 200-yard freestyle

Eddie Smith of Connetquot wins the 200-yard freestyle during a Suffolk boys swim meet between Connetquot/East Islip and Hauppauge on Tuesday at Connetquot. Credit: Bob Sorensen

The Connetquot pool was filled with optimism and joy Tuesday. After months of not knowing when they’d be able to compete in any sport for their schools, every swimmer involved was overjoyed with the mere fact of competing.

"We’re all grateful," said James Llewellyn, a senior swimmer at East Islip High School. "It’s not the same as always because usually we are all close together, so that’s hard for us, but it’s better than nothing."

Plenty was different. Student-athletes, coaches and officials all wore masks, sat spread out in separate bleachers, and removed masks only after stepping on the block to start their race. The meet was live-streamed and no fans were allowed. But once in the pool, normalcy sank in.

"When we are in the pool, it’s like nothing ever happened," Llewellyn said. "And a lot of that is how close you are to your team."

Llewellyn won the 100-yard backstroke in 57.30 seconds and Eddie Smith won the 100 and 200 freestyles in 51.60 and 1:56.49, respectively, as Connetquot/East Islip defeated Hauppauge, 94-84, in each team’s non-league boys swimming season opener at Connetquot High School on Tuesday.

"It was like a dream come true when we found out our season was going to continue," coach Alex Scichilone said. "Especially for the seniors who have lost so much already in their senior year, losing some final moments, but hopefully this is a final moment they’ll be able to grab and hold on to."

Smith, a sophomore, said he’s confident with the protocols in place, that there can be a safe swim season this winter.

"As long as we keep doing what we’re doing, staying six feet apart, I think it’s definitely something we can do," Smith said. "This is great. I love it so much."

Connetquot/East Islip won eight of the 12 events, including all three relays. Nicholas Spameni won the 50 freestyle (24.59) and Jon Stanzione won the 100 breaststroke (1:10.89). The relay of Stanzione, Smith, Spameni and Kyle Gorman won the 200 freestyle relay in 1:30.66, which was less than two seconds from a new program record.

"I always tell them to just do their best, that’s all I can ask," Scichilone said. "And a lot of kids did that tonight, and it showed."

Jake Nielsen won the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle in 2:03.73 and 5:01.95, respectively, for Hauppauge. Michael Schroeder won the 100 butterfly in 56.33 and Colin Buscarino won the diving with a 144.22 for the Eagles.

"It feels great to be back," Nielsen said. "After months of not having these competitions, it feels great to finally compete with other teams and be with my team and have fun."

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