When he lifted his head out of the water and saw the time, Nathaniel Berry knew he had a state record. He could recite the old record as easily as his birthday.

“I’d been staring at the program before,” Berry, a Cony High School senior, said. “I knew what I was shooting for.”

Cony’s Nathaniel Berry is the Kennebec Journal Boys Swimmer of the Year. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

Berry’s 20.70 seconds in the Class A 50 freestyle broke the 10-year old record of 20.94 seconds, set by James Wells in 2009. Berry also won the Class A state championship in the 100 freestyle, with a time of 47.43 seconds.

“That was a goal all season, the state record,” Cony coach Jon Millett said. “It was a moment of elation. It’s something I’ll remember forever.”

With his state record and pair of state championships, Nathaniel Berry is the Kennebec Journal Boys Swimmer of the Year.

Berry leaves Cony with five school records. He also set the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference record in the 50 freestyle (21.18 seconds), while also winning the 100 backstroke at the conference meet.

With the fastest time in Maine history in the fastest race, the question is asked, is Berry the fastest swimmer in Maine high school swimming history? Berry thought carefully before answering. Probably not, he said. With improvements in technology and training innovations his predecessors never had, surely somebody who came before was faster, Berry said, even if the numbers in the pool don’t prove it.

“I’m fortunate to be swimming now,” Berry said.

The 50 freestyle is a very technical race, and combining perfect strokes with speed is the key to a good race, Berry said. In the state meet, he swam his most technically sound race.

“You need to execute each part to perfection. Obviously, it wasn’t a perfect race, but it’s the best one I’ve done,” Berry said. “I knew I had it in me. My coach (Millett), he’s been telling me a few years, you have it in you. It’s just a matter of execution.”

Millett said Berry’s state record, and state win in the 100 freestyle, was a result of offseason work.

“He did a detailed, offseason lifting program. He got bigger, stronger, faster. That’s all him,” Millett said. “He earned all the success. He’s the fastest kid to ever come out of Maine… I couldn’t be more proud or happy for him.”

Millett called Berry, a member of the National Honor Society, a “perfect role model.” Berry is not sure about the perfect part, but it’s a job he takes seriously.

“I do my best to be one. I can’t say with certainty I am (a role model), but I try to be,” Berry said.

Berry will continue his swimming career at Bates College. In selecting a college, Berry knew he wanted to swim, but didn’t want the sport to become an overwhelming priority and distract from academics. With that in mind, he looked at a few schools in the New England Small College Athletic Conference, deciding Bates in nearby Lewiston was the best fit.

In April, Berry will take part in the national championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, as a member of his YMCA club team, the Stingrays.  He plans to compete in the 50 and 100 freestyle, the 100 backstroke, and possibly the 100 butterfly. He thinks he can shave even more time off that blistering 50 freestyle.

“There’s still ways I can improve. It was a good time. I’m happy with the time,” Berry said, “but I always think I can do better.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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