As the University of Maine swimmers enter the intense long-course (50-meter) training period during semester break, the men’s performance during the first semester prompts commendation from coach Susan Lizzotte.
“All around the men have been great. They want to get better and they are willing to do the work necessary,” she said.
Among those who continue to impress Lizzotte are several local swimmers. Joey Quinn of Bangor, who races the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle and fits into Maine’s 200 free and 400 free relay rotation, “has been so solid and so steady in his racing,” Lizzotte said.
Sophomore Rob Bickford of Old Town, also a freestyler, has broadened his race versatility this year. Bickford, like Quinn, offers the Black Bears relay options, particularly in the 800 and 400 free relays.
“He can do it all in freestyle. He no longer thinks of himself as only a 200 and a 500 swimmer,” Lizzotte said.
Meanwhile, captain Andrew Meehan of Brewer “has really had a good semester of racing,” Lizzotte noted. Meehan has a 22.1-second 50 free on his first semester resume in addition to quality sprint butterfly races.
Belfast’s Eric Gaulin, who has competed in only two meets, has the attention of Lizzotte. Gaulin can cross strokes and distances with his racing. The freshman competes in fly, free and individual medley.
“The best is yet to come from Eric. We are really excited about his swimming,” she said.
Maine’s three breaststrokers, senior captain Brian Landry, senior Zach Hammer and Waterville’s Caleb Hoffman, have all recorded dual-meet season-best times. That was not expected, given the intensity of Maine’s training regimen and Lizzotte’s coaching philosophy pointing training to championship season racing.
Actually, in both the men’s and women’s programs, Maine’s coach identifies evidence of continuous improvement.
Sophomore Shannon Bender’s first-semester swimming also prompts kudos from Lizzotte.
“Shannon is on a mission this year. She is always prepared to train every day. She purposefully attacks each practice.”
As a result, despite the intense training, the sophomore has raced a 1:58 200 free, a 2:10 200 back and a 5:14 500 free. An indicator of Bender’s purposeful approach to each practice can be found in her performance on a set of 10x100s at 1:30 where she holds sub-60 seconds for each 100.
In the 200 free relay, Maine has swum successfully, including record-setting efforts. Relay members Naja Harvey, Lauren Dwyer, Emily Buczkowski and Jen Trodden have impressed Lizzotte with their consistency.
“As a relay they have bonded. They swim confidently and they are excited to race,” she said.
When the teams return from their semester training, resume their dual-meet schedule and regular-season training, the teams will host a “Pink Meet” at the university to raise awareness and financial support for breast cancer.
Two former Olympians, Dara Torres and Brendon Hanson, continued their pursuit of the 2012 US Olympic team with impressive swims in the Long Course Winter Nationals held recently in Atlanta.
Torres, age 44, qualified fourth in the 50-meter free (25.4) and then stroked a 25.2 in the finals to finish second behind Jess Hardy’s 25.08. Torres is the long-course record holder at 24.2. Torres has won 12 Olympic medals competing in the 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000 and 2008 Olympics.
Hanson, 30, retired four years ago after the Olympics. At the Long Course Nationals, the breaststroker won both the 200-meter breaststroke (2:09.6) and the 100 breaststroke (1:00.3). Hanson is the former world record holder in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke.
Phil Emery’s Bangor High Rams swimmers have recorded the fastest relay swims in Class A swimming this season, according to MPA statistician Ritchie Palmer.
The Rams lead the Class A schools in the medley relay (1:45.1), 200 free relay (1:37.0) and the 400 free relay (3:29.4).
In Class B, Bob Winslow’s Belfast relays have the fastest performances in the 400 free relay (3:36) and 200 free relay (1:37.2). Other Penobscot Valley Conference swimmers, too, are setting the pace for the state Class B.
Orono’s Cam Dwyer has the fastest 200 free Class B swim at 1:54.3. Ross Johnston of Mount Desert Island High claims the fastest 200 individual medley at 2:06.2 and Cameron Fadley of Foxcroft Academy boasts the fastest 100 butterfly (56.3).