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Maine Swimmers beat the clock in Virginia swim championship

Maine Swimmers who competed in Virginia are L-R Madelyn Buck, McKayla Kendall, Rhyannon Price. Missing is Emily Kennard.
Courtesy of Anne Gabbianelli

By Anne Gabbianelli

Special to The Weekly

Summer in Maine is full of kids swimming for fun, but for four young girls, swimming is not only for fun but for competition. “It’s good to make goals; dropping time is good and hitting goals is better,” said 12-year old McKayla Kendall of Bangor, a member for seven years of the Bangor YMCA Barracuda Swim Team. She is one member of a Maine team who came home from the Eastern Zone Long Course Age Group Championship in Richmond, Virginia last week with four best times.

Going into the meet, ten-year-old Rhyannon Price of Brewer said, “I’m expecting good competition; I usually get good times because I get pumped up.” She came home with six personal best times, three of which earned her first place finishes. Price has been with the Barracuda Swim Team for almost four years.

For 14-year-old Madelyn Buck of Hampden, competitive swimming is “an experience to help me overcome my anxiety.” This was accomplished by Buck making a best time in Virginia’s meet.

These swimmers were joined by Emily Kennard who swims with the Kennebec Valley YMCA Sting Rays in Augusta. Kennard too, came home with two best times from the meet.

Swimming competitively is nothing new; these four have participated in swim meets in Florida in April and Canada last month. Buck said, “I am excited to swim in a long course pool.” The Collegiate School Aquatics Center in Virginia offered not only a 25-yard pool for warm-ups (the same size as Bangor’s pools) but an 8-lane, 50-meter pool creating a personal challenge as well as a competitive one.

The competition was restricted to swimmers registered in one of the 12 Local Swimming Committees in the Eastern Zone. To be eligible for this meet, these swimmers needed to have competed in at least one USA Swimming National Championship event and achieve qualifying times. The swimmers swam just three events per day over the course of the four days.

As the girls practiced this summer with their teammates prepping for the meet, Coach Matt Cook offered tips, “You have to move your arms faster, you’re bearing your head down, and your endurance will get up there.” He’s proud of these swimmers accepting the challenge. “You have to let them know there is a whole big world of swimming outside of Maine, and these swimmers made the cut to be part of up to 700 swimmers from 12 different teams stretching from Maine to Virginia in the Eastern Zone Competition.”

Each swimmer hoped to improve on her personal best leading up to the meet. “I like the long course because I don’t like walls, and so it’s easier to keep going and not have to do flip turns on the 50s,” said Buck aiming for her 50 Freestyle event to be close to 29 seconds. She conquered with 29:21 making this her best time.

Kendall claimed, “Walls can be good resets, but it’s good to be different” as she aimed to complete her 200 individual medley in two minutes and 42 seconds. Instead, she came in with 2:40.79, shaving off time from what she had expected.

Price had a host of times in mind for the six events she was swimming. “It’s my last chance to swim as a ten year old.” Some of her goals were set on 1:19 for her 100 Backstroke; she swam

1:16.87 taking 4 th place. She was looking at 1:15 for the 100 Butterfly, and while she swam more than a second over that goal, she still came in 5th place and made a new best time. Thirty-two seconds was her goal for the 50 Butterfly, and she claimed 1st place swimming 31.89.

For Coach Cook, these swimmers made him proud not just for their performance in the water but for their spirit. “As good as the swimming was and the experience the girls gained, none of that compared to the unique experience of watching the swimmers trade their swim caps with kids from other teams.”

The final day of competition focused on who could trade their team cap for the most coveted cap from another team. It seemed with only four Maine swimmers, their caps were, as one coach

put it, “worth their weight in gold.” Cook said, “While everyone else was trading straight up, one cap for one cap, the entrepreneurial spirit of the Maine swimmers was on display as kids from other teams were making deals for the Maine caps.”

Soon the Maine girls realized that one for one was no longer a good deal as they could get three for one, and more. “I watched 10-14 year olds learn about our economic system right before my eyes. They learned negotiating skills and the laws of supply and demand,” said Cook.

For the girls, the swim competition was about improving their own personal times, but for the coach, “It often becomes less about the swimming and more about life lessons. It’s the best part of coaching youth sports.” Cook said, “I couldn’t be more proud of these kids and the way they represented our great state.”

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