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EST in the news!

Exeter swim team makes a splash

EXETER — Exeter Swim Team is making waves all over the place.

Last weekend EST used a dominating effort from its 10-under set to finish second in the Granite State Swimming Association summer championships. They did it without nine of their best swimmers.

That's because today eight of ESTs top older swimmers are heading to the Eastern Zone championships at Penn State University to be held Wednesday through Saturday. And Thursday, New England 14-under backstroke champion Kyra Sarazen of North Hampton will be wearing the EST colors on the other side of the continent, when Sarazen attacks the 100 backstroke at the USA Swimming Junior Nationals being held at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.

"For us to be at three meets in one week & we're all over the country right now and that's pretty exciting," said EST head coach Greg Gillette in a phone interview from California. "For me that's a sign of where we're going as a club. We can split our team up and get them to the right spot for them to improve as swimmers."

Sarazen, 14, who will be a freshman at St. Thomas Aquinas, made the Junior National qualifying time of 1 minute, 5.69 seconds when she won the 100 back at the New England Championships in 1:05.67. Sarazen also won the 200 back and finished as the third-highest point scorer at New Englands, held at Harvard University at the end of July.

Gillette said Sarazen is typically "a pretty stoic kid," who knew the New Englands were her last shot at making the Junior National time.

"That was her last ditch effort and she really grabbed it at the last event. Coming into this year her best time was a 1:16. It was a really, really good year and she worked really hard," Gillette said. "To see her get pumped up and throw some fist pumps was pretty exciting."

Sarazen will race in a Thursday morning heat of the 100 back. That will be her only official event, though she will get to time trial in other events today and Wednesday. Considering it is her first trip to a national-level meet and she'll be racing swimmers as old as 19, Gillette said it is very unlikely Sarazen could make the final.

"We'll take one one-hundredths of a second of improvement," Gillette said, "but really just the experience and getting that notch on the belt, if you will, is what's important. After this meet, Kyra will be coming back to New England meet and she will be that much more confident and being more excited about going to nationals in December and building that resume."

Sarazen has already qualified for the Senior National (all ages) Indoor Championships in Atlanta. She'll be joined at that December meet by Hampton Falls' Isabel Reis, another talented 14-year-old. Gillette said Reis was feeling sub-par at the New England Championships and otherwise would likely have joined Sarazen in California.

"Through some weird quirk in the time standards, (Reis) has the senior national cut in yards but not the junior national in meters," Gillette said.

Reis and seven of her teammates will be travelling to Penn State instead. Last year EST sent one swimmer to the Eastern Zone Championship, which is a quasi all-star event. Swimmers must make a cut time to qualify but once at the meet they will be teaming with other swimmers from different clubs to represent one of 12 zones. The EST swimmers will be part of Zone New England, which includes Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Marissa Patterson, 16, of Hampton Falls is the lone returner to the zone meet. She'll be joined by Reis, Morganne Hodsdon, 17, of Rye; Sophie Kenny, 14, of Stratham; Corinne Noonan, 15, of Exeter; Jillian Sarazen, 17, of North Hampton; Zach Bishop, 13, of Exeter; and Connar Patterson, 14, of Hampton Falls.

"I guess we put in a lot more new focus with our new coach," Jillian Sarazen said of the team's marked improvement. "This is only the second summer we had him. People are realizing that they have a lot of potential and they can get there."

"We're doing more workouts and instead of a lot of distance we're doing more speed stuff," Kenny said.

Noonan said the whole team is benefitting from individual success and a team-wide mentality that faster times are possible.

"If you're on the side of the pool and you watch someone go a ridiculous time (it) makes you think, 'oh yeah, I can go that fast, too," Noonan said.

With Kyra Sarazen and the eight Zone Championship qualifiers sitting out the meet, EST scored 2,970 points at the GSSA meet, trailing only Bedford Swim Team (3,074.5).

"As excited as I am with these older kids we had an amazing meet with our 10-unders." Gillette said. "We brought a lot of them in (to the program) in just the last four months they won the 10Under session & by over 500 points."

"Last year we lost (at GSSA) by 800 points with our whole squad and this year we basically got caught in the last event without nine of our best swimmers," Gillette added.