Country Western legend Jerry Reed sang “When You’ re Hot, You’re Hot” to Billboard’s music ranking in the 1970s. On Saturday, coach Cindi Howard’s Bangor High swimmers and divers were hot in their swimming and in their diving, particularly in the opening and closing relays as the Rams comfortably won the Penobscot Valley Conference crown at Husson University.
Bangor scored 379 points. Coach Tony DeMuro’s Mount Desert squad totaled 330. Foxcroft Academy was third at 159.
“They swam out of their minds,” Howard said. “We swam so many good times. I think nearly everyone had a best time.”
Earlier in the dual-meet season, Howard had noted her coaching point on the importance of the medley relay establishing the tone for the meet. Apparently, she convinced her team of the importance of the medley relay, too, since the Rams set a PVC record and pool and school in the first event.
The meet opened with the Rams coming from behind in the medley relay to nip the fast MDI team 1 minute, 55 seconds to 1:55.2. After MDI’s Chelsy Curran, one of Maine’s elite backstrokers, gave MDI a lead and teammate Ryann Rourk preserved the lead on the breaststroke, the Rams were off the pace. However, Bangor flyer Emma Waddell exploded off her butterfly turn with such drive and thrust that in matter of a stroke or two she handed the Rams a slight lead and with anchor swimmer Meri Wicks speeding on her leg the Rams’ collected the first of two relay golds.
“If you have a real good medley relay, it gets everything rolling, “ Howard explained.
The rolling and the hot swimming actually had just begun for the Rams. Waddell, a freshmen, gathered herself and focused on her individual race, the 200 freestyle, following her electrifying relay swim, and won the event by 12 seconds and in doing so set a school record of 1:55.1. Teammate and classmate Juliana McDonald nabbed second and Jenny Dickson scored fifth and the Rams were 18 points ahead after the first two events.
In the 200 individual medley, Bangor sophomore Jamie Hunsaker found herself in second place by seven-tenths of a second as the field turned from breaststroke to free. Hunsaker outsplit her nearest competitor by 2.5 seconds on the final leg to give the Rams their third gold in as many events. Wicks, who split so well on the anchor leg of the medley relay, remained equally hot in the 50 free, winning the event in 26.0. Sadie Redman and Dickson achieved personal records 26.8 and 27.2, respectively, to place fifth and sixth. And, the Rams led 138 to 119.
Interestingly, the Bangor divers were equally as hot as their swimming teammates. Displaying consistency and poise, senior Julie Clifford won the PVC title scoring 330.05 points for her 11 dives. Teammates Liz Huber and Allie Rowe placed third and fourth with Foxcroft Academy sophomore Kate Morrison claiming the silver medal.
Of the five events in the first half of the meet, Bangor won five golds.
Waddell, who had ignited her teammates and the full gallery of fans with her first-half swims, opened the second half of the meet with a record-setting swim in the 100 fly. Taking the first 50 out in 28.7, Waddell swam a strong second half (30.3) and closed at 59.1.
In the seventh event, the 100 free, Olivia Jacobs (57.9) finally cooled off the Rams and claimed a gold for MDI. The Rams, though, finished second, third, and fourth with Dominique Comeau, Redman and Kylie Smith.
Bangor’s Hunsaker, after four lengths of the 20-length 500 free, led the championship field and won her second event in 5:40.6. Erin Connery held off Bangor Christian’s Kayla Merchant for second at 5:43.4 to Merchant’s 5:43.7. Alyssa Reardon and Laura Pasquine both lowered their entry times and scored fourth and sixth for the Rams.
In the 200 free relay, Bangor, with a crisp opening leg from Dickson, held a narrow lead over MDI’s sprinters. Nevertheless, the Trojans, with quick relay legs from Augusta Blandford and Oliva Jacobs, handed their anchor Erin Connery a five-tenths of a second lead and the sophomore secured the win at 1:47.3. Bangor finished 1:47.8.
And in the next two events, the backstroke and the breaststroke, MDI also won golds. Curran won the 100 back in an impressive 1:00.5, just missing the PVC record and teammate Rourk collected the gold (1:14.1). Rourk’s classmate Blandford finished second and Old Town’s Laura Vaillancourt third.
After nearly six hours of racing one might expect the sharpness required for the 400-free relay to be diminished. Certainly, however, all those who witnessed the final event could not doubt the crispness of the racers.
In a thrilling race between Bangor and MDI, DeMuro handed the first leg to his talented senior Curran who split 56.4. But, Bangor’s Wicks, with a personal record split of 57.3, kept the Rams in reach of the Trojans. Olivia Jacobs, another of MDI’s speedsters, extended the lead for MDI heading into the third leg where the Rams needed to make a charge. Dickson, a senior for the Rams, turned in a personal record relay split, gaining important tenths of a second on MDI. With the Rams slightly more than a second behind the speedy Trojans, Waddell (52.8), in a display of swimming determination and will on the anchor leg, swam the Rams to the relay win in a very fast 3:45.8, approximately three seconds faster than the school’s relay record set in 1996.
“Emma is unstoppable. She is so coachable and swims with such drive,” Howard said.
Bangor will compete in the Class A state meet Feb. 22 at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. The Class B meet is scheduled for Feb. 19 at UMaine in Orono.