BANGOR, Maine — Mariah Reading should have been a bundle of nerves on the starting blocks during Saturday’s Penobscot Valley Conference swimming and diving championships at Husson College.
Instead, the playful freshman was smiling from ear to ear. Once in the pool, Reading was all business, placing first and second in her individual events while competing on two first-place relays to help Bangor High School earn the PVC title.
“Even though I was really, really nervous, I just want to have fun when I’m swimming,” Reading said. “It [acting silly] helps me get ready.”
Coach Cindi Howard’s Rams claimed the program’s 11th straight PVC title with a well-balanced effort. Bangor scored 279 points to outdistance Mount Desert Island (229.5).
“I’m extremely pleased,” Howard said. “I can’t count the number of best times and it shows. That’s why we are where we are today.”
Foxcroft Academy placed third with 218 points, while John Bapst of Bangor (152) and Brewer (129.5) rounded out the top five. Orono (100), Washington Academy of East Machias (83), Old Town and Presque Isle (48), Ellsworth (36), Hampden Academy (35), Bangor Christian (24) and Caribou (2) rounded out the field.
Bangor was a factor in all 12 events, racking up three first-place finishes, three seconds and five thirds. The Rams scored three or more athletes in seven different events.
“That’s usually how we win, by our depth,” said Bangor senior Eliza Woodcock, who took third in the 100 butterfly, ninth in the 100 backstroke and swam the backstroke leg on the winning 200-yard medley relay.
“I’m impressed,” she added. “I wasn’t sure how we were going to be at the beginning of the season. We’ve done a lot better than I thought we were going to.”
Reading showed she will be a force for the Rams for years to come. She established a PVC and school record in winning the 200 individual medley in 2 minutes, 12.61 seconds.
“I just wanted to get a best time and stay with [John Bapst’s] Tara Nitardy,” Reading said. “That’s what I was really nervous for, but that just blew my mind, that time.”
Reading finished second in the 100 breaststroke, swam the breaststroke leg on the 200 medley relay and anchored the Rams’ second-place 400 free relay with a 53.6-second split.
Other key contributors for Bangor included senior Zarin Kacer, who was fourth in the 200 free and fifth in the 500 free, along with classmate Brianna Theriault (third in the 200 IM and sixth in the 100 back). Both swam on the 200 medley and 400 free relays.
Junior Ashley Higgins’ victory spearheaded the Rams’ dominance in the diving. Her beautifully executed reverse dive in pike position capped off a performance for which she earned 347.70 points.
“She’s done wonderful,” Howard said. “I can see her doing very, very well at states.”
Meghan Rowe took second (320.55 points), Julie Clifford (302.30) was third and Chelsea Hardy (292.80) placed fifth as the Rams scored 51 points.
“We appreciate them a lot,” Woodcock said of the divers, who are coached by Jaret Lizzotte. “We rely on them a lot and they’re fantastic.”
Sadie Redman scored in two individual events and swam on two winning relays, while Casey Pray and Jenny Dickson each posted two top-10s and a relay third.
Laura Pasquine notched a sixth and a 12th, while Meri Wicks scored in an individual event and a relay. Elizabeth Farrell, Chelsea Hardy, Tynesha Dias, Rebecca Ye and Jaime Williams also provided points.
Individual standouts included Marley Clark of Foxcroft Academy. The senior set PVC and school records in defending her 50 free title with a time of 24.55 seconds and also took the 100 free in 54.72 seconds.
Clark paced the Ponies’ victorious 200 free relay team, which also included Julia Kurzius, Ashley Murray and Erin Boyer, and anchored FA’s win in the 400 free relay with Kurzius, Amber Murray and Ashley Murray.
MDI sophomore Chelsey Curran was the other two-event champion, winning the 500 free (5:37.70) and the 100 backstroke (1:02.00) with two seconds in relays (200 medley, 200 free).
Senior Jessica Hodsdon of Brewer claimed the 100 breaststroke for the third straight year. In the process, she broke her own PVC and school record, and eclipsed the pool standard, with a time of 1:07.09.
“It felt really, really good. I was really happy,” Hodsdon said.
Kurzius was a three-time champion, adding a first in the 200 freestyle (2:1.68) and a second in the 100 free to her two relay titles.
The day’s most convincing swim was turned in by Nitardy, who won the 100 butterfly (1:01.85) by six-plus seconds.
The 500 free was uncharacteristically dramatic as Curran outdueled Hodsdon. Curran held a slim lead over the first 150 yards, but Hodsdon hit the pad leading by .09 seconds at 200. She stayed in front until Currier surged back ahead at the 400-yard mark and held off Hodsdon by .13 seconds.
“I don’t think we’ve ever actually swam against each other,” Hodsdon said. “I thought it was a really good race. I’m happy with my swim.”
The 200 medley relay was a thriller. Bangor’s Redman started the last (freestyle) leg trailing by 1.29 seconds but made up the deficit and touched in 0.12 seconds ahead of MDI’s Courtney Sullivan.
That was followed by the 200 free where Kurzius outtouched teammate Erin Boyer by 0.28 seconds. Boyer lopped nearly five seconds off her seed time.