Her coach calls her Kenzie. A few of her teammates call her Burt. She sometimes prefers Mackenzie.

As a freshman at Messalonskee, Mackenzie Burton has already proven herself as one of the more versatile swimmers in the state. She had among the top 25 times in Class A in four different events this winter, and had two top-six finishes at the Class A state meet.

That makes Burton the choice as the Morning Sentinel Girls Swimmer of the Year. Kristy Prelgovisk, Burton’s teammate at Messalonskee, was also considered.

“I knew that she was a well-rounded swimmer,” Messalonskee coach Sara Rushton said. “I was quite surprised by the times she had coming in. She really filled a void for me. She swam any event I put her in. I knew she was good coming in, but I wasn’t sure how she would do against high school kids. They’re three or four years older than her.”

It was evident early that Burton would do just fine. She has been swimming for about half of her life, beginning with a club team when she was 7 or 8 years old.

“I’ve just been swimming ever since,” Burton said. “I just fell in love with it.”

And Rushton realized early on what she had in Burton. One of her best swimmers was also one of her hardest-working, and that showed as Burton dropped her times throughout the season.

“Just a coach’s dream to work with,” Rushton said. “She worked hard in all of the practices. She was here. She was just a joy to have.”

“I really just wanted to have fun,” Burton said. “I heard that it was really fun on the high school team, and I was really excited.”

Like many elite swimmers, Burton compete for the Mid-Maine Dolphins in addition to her high school team. When both seasons overlap, she’s practicing about three hours per day.

“We had middle school double practices,” Burton said. “This is the first time I’ve had hard-core training for three hours a day.”

Burton’s career overlapped with Prelgovisk, last year’s Morning Sentinel Girls Swimmer of the Year. While Prelgovisk gave Burton something to shoot for, Burton says she appreciated her entire group of fellow swimmers.

“I think all of my teammates had a positive impact,” Burton said. “Yes, having someone as good a swimmer as she was and is, and knowing that I could aim for her, helped me. But all of my teammates were really supportive of each other. I’m just so happy that my team has my back.”

At the Class A state championships, Burton was sixth in the 100-meter butterfly, and fourth in the 200 IM. By doing so, she shot past her own high school expectations.

“Going into it, I had thought that I had a chance to be in the top 16, but I never expected to get on the podium as a freshman,” Burton said. “That’s been my dream. I expected to maybe get there as a senior.”

If Burton stays with swimming and stays healthy, she has the chance for many more appearances on the podium. She could also have a shot at some Messalonskee records, although part of what makes her so valuable is that you can’t really be sure which records those will be.

“I think she would be able to break a couple of our school records,” Rushton said. “She’s got the drive. She will be a contender all four years. She’s a well-rounded swimmer, so you (could) see her in just about anything at any time.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo

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