Messalonskee swimming coach Sara Rushton knew she could fill any open event with Ben Thibert, and he’d come through with a solid performance. But even someone as adaptable as Thibert has his specialties.

“He definitely excelled in the sprint and freestyle events,” Rushton said. “He was just phenomenal this year in the 50 and 100 freestyle. At states, he broke the school record in the 50.”

That school record was held by stud swimmer Arthur Conover. Thibert finished second at the Class A meet in both the 50-meter freestyle and the 100 backstroke, and he’s the choice as the Morning Sentinel Boys Swimmer of the Year. Also considered was Lawrence’s Alex Bevier.

Thibert can get voluble when the topic is swimming — he enjoys one-session meets because they better test a swimmer’s endurance, for instance — and that passion translates into his performance. He speaks as someone who puts a lot of work into swimming because he enjoys it.

“I like the people,” Thibert said. “From my freshman year in high school, I’ve gotten to see a lot of great swimmers, and meet a lot of cool people.

“We had a good team this year,” Thibert added. “We didn’t lose any seniors, so we had a really close-knit team this year. We had two seniors this year, Daeghan Elkin and Spencer DeWitt, who were absolutely great leaders on our team. Daeghan was the first one in the pool at practice. I was chasing him all year.”

Thibert’s schedule reminds you of the parents who have their first child and wonder what happened to all their free time. Between Messalonskee and the Mid-Maine Dolphins, he had two practices most days. He added coaching on top of that.

“It’s definitely a challenge,” Thibert said. “We swim an hour and 45 minutes for Dolphins, and an hour for high school, and I coach a younger-age group for Dolphins. So I was at the pool upwards of six hours a day, three days a week, and upwards of four hours a day the other days.”

At the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championships, Thibert won the 200 IM, and placed third in the 100 butterfly. You might notice that those are two different events than the ones he swam nine days later at states. His performance helped the Eagles finish second to Brunswick.

At states, Thibert had his two second-place finishes as Messalonskee finished 12th, and he admits he was happy that his hard work had paid off. He was also pleased with what the day meant for the program.

“It was a real good close to the season, with my guys team losing only two seniors this year,” Thibert said. “Good races out of Daeghan and Spencer, and good races from the underclassmen.”

With his performance in the 50 free, Thibert was able to claim one record from Conover. He has surpassed Conover’s times in other events, but those weren’t high school competitions.

“Arthur Conover came in a couple years ago,” Thibert said. “He’s definitely been one of my role models coming through. He recently broke an NCAA Division III record in the mile. He had every record on the board — even the relays. I got the 50 free this year, and I’ve got my eyes on a couple more.”

“There’s no holding Ben back right now,” Rushton said. “He’s going to be able to swim all events, and he’s going to qualify in all events. So I just want to see him have fun.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo

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