BANGOR, Maine — Forget the knife. The tension was so thick at Friday night’s regular season swimming showdown between statewide powers and local rivals Bangor and Mount Desert Island, you needed a machete to cut it.
Neither team in either the boys and girls meets led by more than eight points at any point during the meet at Husson University and both meets came down to the final event: the 400-yard freestyle relay, before anyone dared so much as exhale at the aquatic pressure cooker.
“It’s about the closest you can get,” said MDI coach Tony Demuro. “I’ve never had two meets finish this close before.”
When the water finally stopped churning, it was the MDI boys and Bangor girls who were celebrating emotional victories and extending several years of dominance.
The MDI boys remained unbeaten against Bangor in regular season meets for a sixth straight season with a razor-thin 92-88 meet victory over the Rams, and only after their top two relay teams finished first AND third to gain the necessary 10 points needed to win.
“We could have guaranteed ourselves a tie if we took one of our four fastest guys and put him in the second relay team, but that’s not what this meet is about,” said Bangor boys coach Phil Emery. “It’s about winning.”
In the girls meet, Bangor’s depth trumped MDI’s individual talent as the Rams beat the Trojans for an 11th straight season, 97-89.
“Most of my meets, I just try to get my girls qualified. However, when it comes to MDI, you pull out all the stops,” said Bangor girls coach Cindi Howard.
For Howard, one of those “stops” was Zarin Kacer, one of the few seniors on Bangor’s squad. Kacer doesn’t swim the 500 freestyle much, but she was not only in it, she won it — by two tenths of a second over MDI’s Tarryn Rourk.
“I hate the 500 actually, but I had a personal record by 24 seconds. I’ll probably be swimming it the rest of the season now,” Kacer said with a bemused look.
If the 500 victory wasn’t enough, Kacer would come up big again, this time in the meet-ending relay. Bangor and MDI were swimming neck and neck before Kacer pushed ahead by a half second on the turn in the second leg of the relay.
“I just swum the 100 back and the 500 free, so I was dying, but I said ‘Give it everything I have and I’ll sleep tonight.’ I ended up getting my best time by far,” Kacer said. “I guess it was adrenaline.”
Kacer’s relay team won by 2½ seconds as freshman Mariah Reading capped a standout meet with a scalding 26.16-second anchor leg.
“We talked about this meet off and on even though we’re not really supposed to,” Reading said. “We’re big rivals and this is a big deal.
“We knew it would be a tough race so we had a huddle before the race and said we had to win this. I’d just come from the 100 breaststroke, so I was kind of tired, but I gave it my all and we had enough to win.”
It was Reading’s third first-place finish of the night as she also won both the 100 breaststroke and 200 freestyle.
The boys meet had many heroes as —much like the girls meet — it boiled down to a battle between MDI’s individual talent and Bangor’s depth.
Junior Ian Carbone led the way for the Trojans by winning the 100 and 200 free, and swimming the second leg for MDI’s winning 200 medley relay team and the anchor leg of the meet-clinching 400 free relay team.
“That was all adrenaline right there, especially once the crowd starts going,” said Carbone.
Other Trojans with big outings were senior Michael Breen, who won the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly, and swam the second leg of the winning 200 medley and 200 free relay teams.
MDI junior Ty Onda also swam well. He won the 500 free and swam the lead leg of the 200 medley relay plus the third leg in the 400 free relay.
In the girls meet, MDI senior Alyson Yau won the 50 free. She also swam the third leg of the winning 200 medley relay team and third leg of the winning 200 free relay squad.
MDI’s Chelsey Curran won the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly as well as swimming the lead leg in the 200 medley relay first-place team. Fellow sophomore Ryann Rourk won the 100 free and swam anchor for the 200 medley relay.