Waterville coach Bob Johnston knows that for his boys swim team to win a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B title this season, it will have to first beat perennially powerful Belfast.

Last season, the Lions overwhelmed the field in the conference meet with Johnston’s Purple Panthers placing a distant second. This year, the teams are much more evenly matched. In last Friday’s meet at the Alfond Youth Center, the two teams finished in an 80-all tie. Because Waterville was the home team and doesn’t compete in diving events, they weren’t contested at the meet. They will be at the KVAC meet.

“In my 18 years at Waterville, we’ve never beaten Belfast,” Johnson said. “I was a little disappointed (with the tie). A lot of the kids were sick. Belfast had the same issue.”

Waterville senior Sam Zarfos won all the events in which he competed, posting a time of 2 minutes, 10 in the 200-yard individual medley and 1:05 in the 100 breaststroke.

“He’ll be one of the top four or five swimmers in the state,” Johnston said.

The Wehry twins, Sam and Ben, also excelled although Johnston said Ben was still recovering from a couple of days of illness during the week. Nonetheless, he finished first in the 50 free, setting a PR of 24.2 seconds. Sam is a solid breaststroker and distance swimmer while sophomore Emmett deMaynadier won the 200 and 500 freestyle events.

The Waterville girls finished third at the KVAC meet last year and should be competitive when everyone gets healthy. Senior Brianna Bernier is recovering from a concussion and missed Friday’s meet as did senior Treva deMaynadier who was out of the country. Senior Emily Cole swam well in the 500 while Sarah Ringer, another senior, stood out in the 50 free and 100 breast. Johnston said senior freestyler Allison Scully is also much improved.

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First-year Winslow coach Dave Setchell likes his group of seniors led by Griffin Davis who he calls “our top guy.” The Black Raiders are 2-0 so far with a big meet Jan. 4 at Lincoln Academy up next.

Along with Davis, seniors Gabe Smith, Chad Colford and Ryan King form an excellent medley relay team.

“They’re a second and half off last year’s final time at the states,” Setchell said. “They’re head and shoulders above where they were last year.”

Setchell expects Griffin to be among the best in Class B in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke. He won the 100 free and 200 IM in Friday’s meet against Erskine while Smith won the 100 breast and 50 free and King took the backstroke. Sophomore Harrison Clark, who won the 200 free and sophomore Logan Theriault have all been key contributors.

The Black Raiders picked up a blue-chip swimmer this season in Russian exchange student Vika Arkhipova, who has already set school records in the 50 and 100 free, 100 fly and 100 backstroke.

“She can swim anything and anything really fast,” Setchell said. “She’s a threat to win the KVAC and state events. She’s the real deal.”

Freshmen Sierra Hopkins and Jess Greeley have also been pleasant surprises, Hopkins setting a school record in the breaststroke and Greeley in the 500 free. Juniors Bethany Winkin and Audrey Jones have also swum well so far.

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Waterville, Winslow and Messalonskee will host their annual alumni meet 7 p.m. Friday at the Alfond Youth Center.

“Anybody and everybody is welcome,” Waterville coach Bob Johnston said. “They’re short events. It’s a kind of a fun holiday event.”

Both Johnston and Winslow coach Dave Setchell plan to compete. The entry fee is a can of food which will be donated to the Waterville Food Bank.

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Messalonskee’s Arthur Conover has established himself as the top distance swimmer in Maine and New England, winning both titles last year in the 500-yard freestyle. Next year, he’ll take it up a notch when he attends Kenyon College, a Division III school in Ohio that has won 31 national titles in row.

“He’s focusing on the (500) and the mile,” Messalonskee coach Sara Rushton said. “He’s trained very hard this summer. He changed his eating habits and did a lot of open water swimming.”

Conover holds every school record but the 50 free and he’s taking aim at that one this year. His specialties are the 200 and 500 freestyle events and he’s rarely even challenged.

“Right now I’m focusing on getting some of the relay records for my teammates,” Conover said.

Freshman Ben Thibert, sophomore Daeghan Elkin and senior Kyle Holmsen are all part of the freestyle and medley relay teams.

“They all will qualify for many events for the states,” Rushton said. “I can see them placing in the top three for relays,”

The Messalonskee girls graduated six top swimmers from a team that won its first Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship and placed second in the Class A state meet last season. So far their only loss it to Brunswick.

Sophomore Kristy Prelgovisk set the school record last year in the 100 breaststroke and finished second in that event at the states. She has some strong teammates in seniors Kaileigh Lenentine and Katie Swenson and junior Allison Fischang.

“I think we’re a solid contender for the KVACs,” Rushton said. “Brunswick will be the big favorite (but) I think we have a shot.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

ghawkins@centralmaine.com