By Eliot Schickler

eschickler@bcnnew.com

The Staples girls swimming and diving team placed seventh at the Class LL championships Nov. 17 at Southern Connecticut State University.

"I'm very happy," Staples coach Mike Laux said. "We had 11 girls qualify and nine had the best times of their lives. The other two had their best times at trials, which put them in finals. This was a great meet for us."

Greenwich won the 20-team class with 877 points, easily outdistancing second-place Amity (606). The Lady Wreckers (342), who were in third in 2007, 2008 and 2010 and fifth in 2011, fell short to sixth-place Norwalk (398) but defeated eighth-place Westhill (294).

"This year was a rebuilding year for us after graduating five girls who scored in the state finals last year," Laux said. "We got close to Norwalk and beat Westhill, which is good. It was really a great meet."

The Lady Wreckers did especially well in relays. Senior captain Gabby Wimer, juniors Rebecca Raab and Sarah Cooperman and sophomore Verity Abel earned All-State honors in the 200-yard freestyle relay by taking second with a time of 1:39.98. Wimer, freshman Jordan Santarella, Cooperman and Abel powered the 400-yard freestyle relay team (3:41.45) to sixth place.

"The relays were probably the most fun part of the meet," Wimer said. "I am so proud of our 200-free relay, which came in 2nd and got All-State. Verity, Sarah, Becca and I had been talking about it all week because we were so excited. Knowing that we all had the same goal, and that we all were counting on each other really motivated me to swim fast. It was the same thing in the 400-free relay. By the end of the meet Sarah, Jordan, Verity and I were all pretty tired, but we knew what we had to do to qualify for Opens so we forgot about how sore we were and just focused on cheering for each other and swimming fast."

Junior Alexis Teixeira, sophomore Gabbie LeBlanc, senior captain Caroline Valerio and Raab led the 200-yard medley relay team (1:58) to ninth place.

Staples did well in distance freestyle events, starting with Abel earning All-State by placing second in the 500-yard freestyle (5:00.12).

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"I was pleased with my 500 at states because I wasn't sure if I would get a personal best time, so when I did it was very nice," Abel said. "I tried to build the first 200 of it and then for the last three 100's I tried to descend them."

Cooperman took 10th in the 200-yard freestyle (1:59.53) and 12th in the 500-free (5:23.28).

"I owe my personal best in the 200 to the team," Cooperman said. "We had so many fans come up to the meet to cheer and knowing they were at the end of the lane and hearing them cheer for me made me feel motivated and ready to go. I couldn't have done it without my amazing friends on the team."

Santarella had a personal best in the 200-free at trials (2:04.45), which put her in position to take 15th at finals (2:05.13) and score 12 points for Staples. She was 16th (5:35.60) in the 500-free.

"I think I did well as a freshman," Santarella said. "I didn't do as well as I wanted too, but Laux was proud of me, so I was happy. I wanted to get best times at trials to help the team."

Abel grabbed fifth in the 200-yard individual medley (2:08.43) and LeBlanc (2:21.02) was 20th.

"I was pretty satisfied with my 200-IM at states," Abel said. "I wasn't really expecting a best time and I was happy to have swum faster than I did at trials. The key was just to put a lot of effort into every single stroke because they all matter equally."

Wimer led the sprinters by placing ninth in the 100-yard freestyle (54.64) and 11th in the 50-yard freestyle (25.47). Raab (26.35) was 21st in the 50-free and freshman Stacy Kaneko (57.69) was 22nd in the 100-free.

"In the 50, it was all about getting up and going right away and making sure I was kicking the whole way," Wimer said. "Before the 100, Laux talked to me and told me to just stay with all the girls in the first half of the race and then on my second turn to explode off the wall and really start picking up my tempo."

The Lady Wreckers had three girls score in the 100-yard breaststroke with junior Anita Vohra (1:12.25) leading the way by placing 15th. LeBlanc (1:12.41) and junior Patricia Maragos (1:13.58) were 17th and 19th, respectively.

Senior captain Michelle Mastrianni (259.65) and Valerio (1:02.51) took 14th and 17th in diving and the 100-yard butterfly, respectively. Teixiera was 23rd in the 100-yard backstroke (1:05.59).

"I am incredibly proud of the team's performance," Wimer said. "All of the girls who qualified for states made finals, which is fantastic. But not only that, everyone came back at finals and really stepped up to the plate and swam fast."