According to Cony High School’s Nathan Berry, success in the pool comes from finding the balance.

“The best swimmers are the ones who are always the calmest, who can get behind the blocks and just do the same thing they’ve done every time,” he said. “You don’t want to get too emotional.”

Then the gun goes off and the race begins, however, and the best swimmers find a way to feed off the surge in intensity.

“You also have to be really aggressive,” he said. “You need to be able to beat the person next to you and want to beat your own time, and push throughout the whole race.

“It’s a combination of thinking technically about the race, but also feeding off of the energy of the people around you.”

Berry didn’t have any trouble with that combination this year. The Cony junior won titles in the 50-yard freestyle and 100 backstroke at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championships in Bath, then placed second in both at the Class A state championships at the University of Maine. For his performance, Berry is the Kennebec Journal Boys Swimmer of the Year.

“Nathan was no surprise to anybody. Everybody knows about him. He was like this last year, and he had another strong season,” coach Jon Millett said. “Nathan is a true sprinter, that’s what he’s really good at. He’s all arms and legs, he’s like a tornado in the water. He really just goes.”

As the Rams’ top swimmer coming into the year, Berry assumed more of a leadership role than he did as a sophomore.

“I knew that the way I swam would probably affect the way everybody else swims,” he said. “For whoever you see swim, if you see them drop a bunch of time, if you see them go crazy, you’re going to get pumped up and you’re going to want to do the same thing they did. Everybody wants to go really fast, and whoever they see doing that, it’s going to help them a lot.”

Berry’s team-first mentality was on display in the relays, the most prominent being the 200-medley team, on which he swam the 50 freestyle leg.

“Nathan’s a big competitor, and he loves to swim relays,” Millett said. “His times are always top-notch in the relays. If he’s the anchor on a relay, the team really depends on him and he rises to that. He thrives on it.”

Berry said there’s a new kind of motivation that comes with swimming as a part of a group effort.

“When you’re swimming on your own, you don’t get as hyped as you do for when you’re swimming with three other guys who all have the same goal,” he said. “If you fail at an individual event you’re only letting yourself down, but if you fail at a relay you’re letting three other people down.”

He was pretty good by himself, too. Berry hauled in the points at the KVACs, taking first in the 50 free (22.37 seconds) and 100 backstroke (54.68), and he was named the performer of the meet for his efforts. At states, Berry was second in both events to Brunswick’s Brian Hess and Bangor’s Carson Prouty, respectively.

Berry had a goal going into the state championships of breaking 54 seconds in the 100 back. He came close — he finished at 54 seconds exactly.

“I’d say that counts as a win for me,” he said. “I’m happy with that achievement.”

With another year to go at Cony, Berry could be in line for even better results next year.

“Nathan needs to get stronger. He needs to lift more, he needs to put a little more mass on,” Millett said. “He’s still growing, and when he completely grows into his body he’s going to be out of this world.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM