Adam and Kayley McNeff are full of surprises, for example when Kayley asked to sing the national anthem prior to a Cony High School swim meet last week.
“She’s one heck of a singer,” Cony coach Jon Millett said. “It was like something you’ve never heard.”
A parent of one of Kayley’s teammates suggested she sing the anthem at the Augusta Civic Center before one of the tournament basketball games during February vacation and she’s lined up for that.
First, there’s swimming to take care of. The siblings will compete in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference meet for Cony on Saturday in Bath, then it’s on to the states. Kayley, a junior, is seeded third in the 500- and 200-yard freestyle events while Adam, a senior, is seeded second in the 200 individual medley and 100-yard butterfly.
The McNeffs live in Weeks Mills and are home schooled. They might have swum for nearby Erskine Academy but the school doesn’t offer athletics for home-schooled students. Adam joined the Cony swim team his sophomore year, another pleasant surprise.
“I was pretty happy when I saw him in the water,” Millett said. “I didn’t have a clue who he was.”
There was a connection between Adam and some of his future teammates since he swam with some of them on the Stingrays, a team sponsored by the Kennebec Valley YMCA in Augusta.
“I was good friends with Victoria Weber and Phoebe Campbell,” Adam said. “I thought it would be fun.”
Kayley, likewise, knew a few of her teammates when she joined the team last year, and it didn’t take her long to fit in.
“I’ve always been good at making friends,” she said. “It’s cool because we all come from different backgrounds.”
Kayley surprised even herself last year at the state meet when she knocked more than two seconds off her time in the 100 freestyle. She had never broken a minute in the event but did so in the qualifying round, then in the finals she swam the 100 in 57.9 seconds. She also dropped her time in the 200 by eight seconds from 2:16 to 2:07.
“I’m super excited for states and KVACs and hopefully New Englands,” she said. “I’m determined to break my times again this year.”
Both McNeffs have broken school records already this year, Adam in the 200 IM (2:13.24) and Kayley in the 500. Adam has a shot at a win in the 100 fly at the KVACs, Millett said, and he expects both he and Kayley to finish among the top eight in their specialties at the state meet. Both are in great shape with swimmer’s builds — Kayley at 5-foot-9 and Adam at 6-1. Kayley was more of a sprinter last year, but has grown better at long distances this season.
“The longer the distances, the tougher she is,” Millett said.
Adam is two years older than Kayley who skipped her eighth grade year, but a friendly competition has developed between the two.
“He’s always been faster than me,” Kayley said. “I can always compare my times to his times. I’m getting closer and closer.”
Sometimes they just swim for fun in the Sheepscot River, which borders their property.
“Kayley and I have gone swimming in it a few times during the summer,” Adam said. “It’s not too deep and it’s cold, but it’s kind of fun, though.”
The McNeffs enjoy swimming because of the individual aspect of the sport, but enjoy the camaraderie of being on a team. This year, Adam is team captain. And both agree that Millett has helped them prosper.
“He’s a great coach,” Adam said. “He coaches like he’s been swimming his whole life. I’ve learned a lot of techniques from him.”
Added Kayley: “He’s really encouraging. I really like that.”
Gary Hawkins — 621-5638