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Opsahl brothers earn bragging rights over dad

By Vickie Fulkerson

Publication: The Day

Published January 25. 2013 4:00AM
Dana Jensen/The Day
Ledyard/Stonington coach Alan Opsahl watches his swimmers warm up during an ECC meet for first place against East Lyme, a team featuring three of his sons. The boys earned bragging rights with a 104-62 win Thursday in Groton.

Groton - When Alan Opsahl and his wife Lisa moved their family to southeastern Connecticut in 2003, sons Adam, Ethan and Evan were in elementary school.

Opsahl, who moved from the suburbs of Chicago to take a job as a scientist at Pfizer, took into consideration the various school districts, the neighborhoods and maybe which towns had pools, as he was a former four-time college All-American and YMCA swim coach.

The Opsahls moved to East Lyme.

Fast forward to Thursday night at the UConn-Avery Point pool. Opsahl, in his ninth season as coach of the Ledyard/Stonington cooperative high school boys' swimming team, was facing off against his sons' team. It's something he's done before, certainly, with Adam in his senior year at East Lyme High and twins Evan and Ethan sophomores.

Only this time both teams were undefeated in the Eastern Connecticut Conference. East Lyme won 104-62, going to 8-1 overall, 7-0 in the ECC, while Ledyard dropped to 6-1, 5-1.

"Not everybody gets a chance to beat their dad," said Adam Opsahl, who won the 50-yard freestyle (22.72) and 500 freestyle (5:10.28) in addition to swimming on the first-place 200 freestyle relay.

"... I'm happy for my dad this year. He deserves it. He's working really hard."

Ethan Opsahl also helped in the victory over his dad, finishing first in the 200 freestyle in 2:00.21 and second in the 100 freestyle. Evan was third in the 100 butterfly.

"They get enough 'coaching' at home from me," Alan Opsahl said of the boys swimming for another coach in East Lyme's Jack Stabach. "I think it would be harder if I was the fulltime coach for them all the time. Sometimes it's nice not to have your dad there."

Alan Opsahl is a member the Austin (Minn.) High School Athletic Hall of Fame for swimming and gymnastics and went on to become an All-America swimmer at Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he was named "Most Inspirational."

He went on to coach the Lattof Neptune Swim Team at the Lattof YMCA in Des Plaines, Ill. - where he had three pools and seven assistant coaches - working with 150 or more swimmers at a time during its peak. While coaching that team year-round, he also had the philosophy of letting his athletes play other sports, something which has carried over to Adam's career as a three-sport athlete (football, swimming, boys' lacrosse) at East Lyme.

The Ledyard/Stonington co-op team has 31 swimmers, 18 from Stonington and 13 from Ledyard. One of the team's top swimmers, Adam Tran, missed Thursday's meet due to illness, but Collin Esquirol won the 200 individual medley (2:15.28) and was second in the 100 backstroke.

As for East Lyme, the Vikings have won five straight ECC championships and were seventh in the Class M state championship last year. Stabach hopes the team can finish in the top three at the state meet this year. The swimmers tell Stabach they want to win.

"They're hard workers; they don't quit," Stabach said. "They get excited. If I don't give them enough to do, they want more."

"We have a lot of depth this year," Adam Opsahl said. "It's definitely the strongest we've been in a while."

Billy Dumais won the 100 butterfly for the Vikings, Eric Stirtan the 100 freestyle, Zach Kosakowski the 100 backstroke and Ben Biondi the 100 breaststroke.

For the teams' second meet of the season, Feb. 20 at East Lyme? The Opsahls will host a pot luck dinner for both teams at their home.

"We will have the Ledyard/Stonington bus pull up in front of our house," Alan Opsahl said, "and have over 60 swimmers in the house."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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