The University of Maine Black Bear swimmers and divers compete in the America East Championships beginning Thursday at Boston University in a championship that features fast and speedy swimming. The championship concludes Sunday.
“We have had a lot of opportunities to race against good teams with a lot of depth during the dual-meet season. We got opportunities to work all the little things required to swim a smart race during the dual-meet season. And, this year we have stepped up the training and the swimmers handled it,” said Maine coach Susan Lizzotte.
Since the Black Bears final dual meet approximately three weeks ago, Lizzotte has emphasized race pace work and setting up the speed.
“We suspended lifting and dry-land two weeks ago. Their bodies are adjusting. We are doing stretch swimming and individualizing to their needs,” Lizzotte said. “We want to score more points on both sides (male/female) than a year ago. With more people swimming at night in the finals, it draws the team together and builds excitement.”
A year ago, 90 percent of the AE times swum by the Black Bears were best times, a standard Lizzotte would like to exceed this year.
For the women, the Black Bears are particularly strong in the relays, including recording the second fastest AE 200 free relay during the dual-meet season.
“I feel we have four girls that this year are confident and know how to pull their weight on their relay leg,” Lizzotte said.
Lauren Dwyer, Naja Harvey, Jennifer Trodden and Emily Bruczkowski swam a Maine record-setting 200 free relay earlier this season.
“In addition to the relays, I feel like we have people in every event that can score,” Lizzotte added.
Trodden, Harvey and Abby Linn in the breaststroke, Shannon Bender in the mile and backstroke along with Carmen Linden and Kara Dubiel in the distance free, project to be strong entries for Maine. Lauren Thornbrough, Courtney Mellish, Dwyer and her relay mates will race in multiple events and compete for points.
“We are thicker across all events this year,” Lizzotte said.
The men, too, are prepped to race and to swim well.
“They are really excited. Guys shaving and tapering really bring them together as a team, Lizzotte said.
Andrew Meehan from Brewer is one of the men Lizzotte expects to race well.
“He swam with more confidence and consistency this year,” she said.
Local swimmers (Rob Bickford of Old Town), (Joey Quinn of Bangor, and Brent Williams of Brewer) will be active in the AE championship as will Belfast’s Eric Gaulin.
“Eric is a big boy. We feel like he will respond to rest. We are excited to see him swim as we are the entire team,” Lizzotte said.
Brian Landry, Maine’s lead breaststroker, Mike Capossela and Yuri Chornobil, distance swimmers, also have raced successfully throughout the dual-meet season and can be expected to race in multiple events.
Kara Caposela, an AE Diver of the Week, leads a Maine entry including Ashley Higgins and Juliet Cobb, in both the one- and three-meter dive. Travis Wibby and Spencer Weymouth dive for the men.
Interestingly, it will be a frosh swimmer, Kayla Merchant from Bangor Christian, who will be Maine’s first swimmer in the water at the AE championship.
“She is ready to start it for us,” Lizzotte said.
Thomas wins gold at Big Ten
Erin Thomas of Bangor swam on the gold-medal 400 free relay at this year’s Big Ten championship held at the University of Iowa. Thomas (48.6) helped her Penn State 400 relay team set a school and University of Iowa pool record in the event. PSU’s time of 3:16.12 tied the University of Wisconsin relay for the win.
Thomas also scored 11th in the 200 free at 1:47.4 and split a 1:48.3 on the seventh-place PSU 800 free relay.
The University of Minnesota won the Big Ten title. Swimming for the Gophers was Blake Zeiger whose parents were both UMaine swimmers. Her dad, Peter Zeiger, swam freestyle for Alan Swizter at Maine and her mother, Whitney Leeman, swam for Jeff Wren and the Black Bear women.
Zeiger, a frosh at University of Minnesota, recorded a 23.1 in the 50 free and a 50.04 in the 100 free.