Coach Jon Millett entered the season with “optimistic expectations” for his Cony girls swim team and so far the Rams are rising above them.

A big part of that, according Millett, has been the additions of a strong group of freshmen in Haley Gagne, Abreal Whitman, Tara Jorgensen and Abby Lenko.

“The freshman class has really added strength and depth to our team for the first time in a long time,” Millett said. “I am putting them in almost anything and they have performed really well.”

Millett also said that first-year junior Anna Brannigan has been a pleasant surprise and, along with returning standouts sophomore Anne Guadalupi, Molly Silsby, also a sophomore, and Abby Silsby, a junior, the Rams have a strong core of eight swimmers. The runner-up in the 200 and 500 freestyles at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A championships a season ago, Guadalupi is off to a fast start having already broken her own team record in the 200 individual medley this season with a time of 2 minutes, 20.36 seconds.

“It says a lot how the kids are swimming,” Millet said. “As far as my view down the road, we have Waterville and the following week we have Morse. (The Shipbuilders) will be great competition and I’m looking forward to it.”

As for the Cony boys, the squad does not have the depth that the girls team does but the Rams do have talent at the top of their lineup.

Junior Noah Aube, the reigning KVAC A champion in the 200 and 500 free, has dealt with some shoulder issues recently and as a result has had to dial back his training a little bit. They, however, do not appear to be too serious and Millett said Aube is already swimming as fast now as he was at the end of last season.

Junior Logan Testerman and senior Dakota Douglas are also off to strong starts for Cony, while Millett said senior Bradley Beeckel is “swimming out of his suit right now and posting lifetime bests” in the 100 backstroke and 200 IM.

• • •

Rob Pekins has had to pull double duty this season in coaching both the Gardiner and Hall-Dale swim teams, and the veteran coach — now in his 14th season with the Tigers and first with the Bulldogs — has nothing but positives to say about the experience thus far.

“The kids get along and they’re a great bunch of kids,” Pekins said. “They’ve done a lot of things together like team nights. They’ve really clicked and really gotten along well.”

Given that a number of the Hall-Dale swimmers are new to the sport, Pekins said veteran Gardiner swimmers like Isabella Ucci, Kelsi Thibeau and Anastasia Carr have taken on leadership roles in helping out their new “teammates.”

Between the two schools there are only three boys, yet each has done well so far this season according to Pekins — particularly Hall-Dale’s Jordan Gardner and Sam Moulton.

Gardiner may be the only team scoring at meets — with Hall-Dale swimming as exhibition since it is its first season as a team — yet both teams’ goals are similar going forward.

“(The goal is) just continuing to improve to beat old times and have a good time for the rest of the season,” Pekins said. “They’re both small teams and they’re really excited about the different stuff they get to do.”

• • •

It has been an up and down year thus far for Messalonskee, as sickness and school vacation have kept the Eagles from finding their groove in the pool thus far.

“Hopefully starting the new year off, we’ll be stronger,” Messalonskee coach Sara Rushton said. “I’m looking for consistent swims out of my girls and looking for leadership amongst the others to step up.

“We’ve been plagued with the cold and the flus that have been going around as well. We had a meet on vacation where I was missing parts of the team. It’s kind of hard when you’re missing part of your team.”

One Eagle who will be looking to get back on track in the new year will be senior Kristy Prelgovisk. The defending Class A state champ in the breaststroke, Prelgovisk is only recently getting back into swimming full time after a bout with mononucleosis to start the season.

“She’s been in one meet. We’re not going to push her too hard, but we’re going to have her to have expectations,” Rushton said. “Slowly, but surely we’re getting her endurance built back up.”

Fortunately for the Eagles there is still plenty of time for Prelgovisk and the team to get ready for the championship season with six meets still remaining in the regular season. Rushton believes the girls team — which also features top swimmers Amber Sutherland, Sophia Libby and Emily Roy, among others — could contend for a top three spot in the KVAC A meet if they work hard and stay healthy.

As for the boys team, there have been more ups than downs according to Rushton. Ben Thibert, Daeghan Elken and Kyle Perkins have each had some strong swims to start the season, while Lawrence’s Alex Bevier — who swims with the Eagles as an independent — has already qualified for states in the 200 IM and 500 free.

• • •

While Messalonskee may be looking for consistency, Waterville is just looking to swim.

The Purple Panthers last had a meet Dec. 19 against Belfast and since then have been looking for ways to stay sharp. They will not have another meet until this Friday when they take on Cony.

“It’s been kind of quiet the last few weeks,” Waterville coach Bob Johnston said. “It’s just the way the schedule went.”

The only semblance of live competition Waterville has participated in was an alumni meet just before Christmas that featured graduates from Waterville, Winslow and Messalonskee high schools — including former Eagle Arthur Conover and Waterville grad Will Hoffman.

“(The high school kids) enjoy it, especially the fact that they get to swim whatever event they want,” Johnston said. “It’s usually a meet where we have shorter events too.”

Since then, though, the focus has been to get ready for Cony and the rest of the season. Johnston believes the boys meet Friday should be a pretty good one, with senior Emmett deMaynadier, junior Alan Baez, sophomore Spencer Jones and freshman John Reisert leading the way for the Purple Panthers.

“Cony is going to be a good challenge for us with the boys,” Johnston said. “Jon (Millett) has some really good girls, but the boys meet should be pretty competitive next Friday. He has a little more depth than we do.”

Senior Margaret Reisert and sophomore Olivia Jones have paced the Waterville girls so far this winter, but the Purple Panthers likely do not have the depth to stay with a team like Cony.

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