The Staples girls swimming team bettered its finish in the FCIAC championships from a year ago, placing sixth in the event on Tuesday afternoon at Greenwich High School.
The Wreckers, who finished seventh in the conference in 2011, recorded 190 points and placed slightly behind Norwalk-Brien McMahon (217 points). Darien recorded 368 points to win its second title in four years, while Greenwich (336) and two-time defending champion New Canaan (309.5) rounded out the top three. Wilton finished in fourth place with 257 points.
"It was a great meet. It was actually an incredible meet," Staples coach Mike Laux said.
Laux admitted he was unsure how his team would perform after they had a week of practices canceled due to Hurricane Sandy. But he came away pleasantly surprised.
"For the first half of the meet we were in fifth place behind the big four," said Laux, referring to Darien, Greenwich, Wilton and New Canaan.
Junior Verity Abel paced the Wreckers with two top finishes, placing first in the 200 and 500 freestyle events. Abel crossed the finish in 1:52.54 in the 200, besting New Canaan's Jenna Egan (1:57.02) and Wilton's Kristen Moss (1:57.12).
"I felt nervous prior to swimming the 200 freestyle, but I started strong and swam a good race," Abel said. "I'm really proud of our team. I think we impressed ourselves with how we performed tonight at this great meet."
"Verity did fantastic. She went way faster than she thought she was going to go and we thought she was going to go," Laux said. "She was nervous."
The Wreckers, who went 7-3 in the regular season, continued their strong performance in the 100 breaststroke. Freshman Amelia Bullock was timed at 1:09.58 for a second-place finish, behind Darien's Olivia Leunis (1:05.25) and ahead of the Rams' Libby O'Hare (1:10.28).
"We had a team that had a lot of potential. I was just waiting for this team to get itself together, and they did," Laux said. "They got themselves together big time in FCIACs."
Darien, which last won the FCIAC title in 2009, made a significant improvement from a year ago. A fifth-place finisher in 2011, the Blue Wave showed impressive depth and was near the top of the leaderboard in several events.
The Blue Wave came in third in the 200 medley relay (1:52.83), second in the 200 individual medley by way of Leunis (2:09.52) and third in the 200 free relay (1:42.03). Caroline Orem took third in the 100 backstroke for the Blue Wave (1:00.31).
"We have a real deep team this year and we really showed that tonight," Darien coach Marj Trifone said. "Last year was a tough meet for us, but we came back strong this year. We showed that we're a mentally tough team by finishing ahead of great teams."
The Wreckers took sixth in the 200 medley relay in 1:55.33 with senior Alexis Teixeira, Bullock, sophomore Jordan Santarella and Raab. In the 400 free relay, Coyne, Bullock, Cooperman and Abel finished seventh in 3:49.03.
"It was a great meet," Laux said. "It was really good to come in and the kids just swam phenomenally. I'm really pleased."
Staples will now prepare for the Class LL state finals, which will be held on Wednesday at Wesleyan University in Middletown. Laux said the Wreckers will enter 20 girls in the competition (17 have qualified).
David Fierro contributed to this story
1. Darien 368, 2. Greenwich 336, 3. New Canaan 309.5, 4. Wilton 257, 5. Norwalk 217, 6. Staples 190, 7. Trumbull 170, 8. Westhill 131, 9. Fairfield Warde 102, 10. Ridgefield 98, 11. Fairfield Ludlowe 46, 12. St. Joseph 40.5.
Top three swimmers in each event
200 medley relay: 1. New Canaan 1:50.98; 2. Wilton 1:51.71; 3. Darien 1:52.83; 200 freestyle: 1. Verity Abel (S) 1:52.54; 2. Jenna Egan (NC) 1:57.02; 3. Kristen Moss (Wi) 1:57.12; 200 IM: 1. Katie Evans (G) 2:07.88; 2. Olivia Leunis (D) 2:09.52; 3. Stephanie Czulewicz (N) 2:12.16; 50 freestyle: 1. Maddie Rusch (NC) 23.88; 2. Chelsea Pond (FW) 24.64; 3. Madeline Dunn (G) 24.89; 100 butterfly: 1. Caroline O'Brien (Wi) 57.89; 2. Cristi Frias (G) 58.94; 3. Lisa Ward (T) 1:00.10; 100 freestyle: 1. Pond (FW) 53.72; 2. Megan Egan (NC) 54.23; 3. Grace Hendee (Wi) 54.26; 500 freestyle: 1. Abel (S) 5:00.46; 2. Maggie Kauffeld (Wi) 5:13.99; 3. Evans (G) 5:14.17; 200 freestyle relay: 1. Greenwich 1:41.46; 2. Norwalk 1:41.81; 3. Darien 1:42.03; 100 backstroke: 1. Alexa Bragg (T) 59.88; 2. Czulewicz (N) 1:00.21; 3. Caroline Orem (D) 1:00.31; 100 breaststroke: 1. Leunis (D) 1:05.25; 2. Amelia Bullock (S) 1:09.58; 3. Libby O'Hare (NC) 1:10.28; 400 freestyle relay: 1. Greenwich 3:36.67; 2. New Canaan 3:38.00; 3. Norwalk 3:38.43.