“Life is true to form; records are made to be broken,” Mark Spitz, American swimmer, said after winning seven gold medals in the 1972 Munich Olympics.
The University of Maine swimmers could offer commentary on record-setting as the Black Bear men and women established 10 school records at the recent America East Championships held at Germantown (Md.) Aquatic Center.
In a championship meet where the times were “incredibly fast,” according to Maine coach Susan Lizzotte, the Black Bears in relays and in individual events set Maine standards. And in events where Maine records did not fall, the Black Bears recorded outstanding times. For example, the Maine men competing at the America East achieved 100 percent season-best times and 80 percent college career best times.
Black Bear men senior Jeremy Bender and junior Andy Meehan (Brewer) both set marks. Bender’s 400 individual medley of 4 minutes, 5.5 seconds, swum in the finals, is now the standard at Maine.
“He earned every inch of that race. At night, he came back faster on the back half than he did in the morning,” Lizzotte said.
Meehan flew to a 50.7 in the 100 butterfly, nipping the previous mark held by Jake Jentzer.
“It has been enjoyable to watch him develop. We never really talked about the record as a goal. He went out and did it. We worked a lot this season on streamlining off the walls. Everyone of his walls, he hit and got drive and distance off the wall. On some lengths, I do not think he took more than five strokes,” his coach said.
“We have a young men’s team. But we had great leadership with Ryan Wonsor, Dan MacDonald and Jeremy. They showed the team where Maine swimming wants to go. The men are focused, together and all want the same thing. The tone has been set for the future,” Lizzotte noted.
The women swam numerous best times and in doing so set multiple records in relays and individual events, too.
“Our ladies swam very well. They went after their races the way they needed to. The meet is so fast. To have a breaststroker go 1:06 and not make top 16 is unbelievable,” said Lizzotte.
In the 200 medley relay, Maine raced a speedy 1:47.1, a record.
“They were determined to get the record,” Lizzotte said of Courtney Mellish, Cait Shelley, Erica Smrcina and Jen Trodden. Interestingly, Mellish had been moved to the backstroke leg of the relay due to injuries to Maine’s other backstrokers.
“Courtney really stepped up on the back leg. Then, we had three great splits on the other legs,” Lizzotte said. Shelley raced a 29.6 breaststroke leg before Smrcina split a 25.2 fly (the third fastest split in the meet). Trodden closed at 24.2.
“All four exceeded expectations. Their performance in the 200 made the 400 medley relay record possible,” stated Lizzotte. Maine exceeded expectations again with a 3:54.3 400 time, three seconds ahead of the previous mark.
In individual events, senior Shelley set two marks, the 200 individual medley (2:05.7) and the 100 breaststroke (1:04.4).
“I knew from her goals that she meant business,” said Lizzotte. “She earned every inch of her racing. She is so focused and a hard worker.”
Meanwhile, in the 200 breaststroke Trodden broke her own school record with a 2:21.5.
“She just hauls at night. She is a night swimmer. She is a fighter at night who loves to race,” commented Lizzotte.
One of the meet’s highlights was the swimming of Lauren Thornbrough. Racing in the distance events such as the 500 (5:05), the 400 IM (4:33.5) and in the 200 butterfly, where she set a record at 2:05.1, the junior from California consistently swam strong on the back half of her races.
“During the dual-meet season, we kept the faith on the back half. We knew with the training she was doing and then with rest, she would come back strong on the second half. I am really pleased for her,” Lizzotte said. Actually, following Maine’s long course training (50 meters) during the Christmas break, Lizzotte remarked on the quality of the junior’s training and projected speedy end-of-the-season swims from her.
Smrcina, who split the fast fly leg in Maine’s relay, excelled in the 100 butterfly, establishing a mark of 57.0. “It is really exciting to see her accomplishment. She had surgery in August. The thought of where she can go from here is exciting,” Lizzotte remarked.
Maine frosh divers Tim Smith (Bangor) and Kara Capossella both scored in the 1- and 3-meter events. Lizzotte acknowledged Smith’s presence on the board. “He is a natural. He loves big meets. He looked like he had been doing this for years.
“It was great to see both our teams up and cheering for our divers in the finals. With Kara and with Tim, we had divers in every evening diving event.”
Bender gets job done
Bender is the male recipient of the prestigious Dean Smith Award presented by the University of Maine. The senior marine science major who is a three-year Maine Scholar Athlete, a Senior Skull, a five-time Dean’s List student, a two-time member of the America East honor roll and who was selected in 2009 to participate in coral reef research in Australia, “gets it done,” according to his coach.
“In every aspect, he has been a great leader, athletically, academically and socially. He gets it done. He has been such a good representative for University of Maine athletics,” Lizzotte explained.