Waterville/Winslow’s Eric Booth is the Central Maine Boys Swimmer of the Year. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

Eric Booth had come to expect slow starts over the course of his career. But this one had Booth, a senior on the Waterville/Winslow swimming team, sweating a little.

“It worried me this time, because it took a little bit longer for me to get back, in the season, to the way I was last year,” he said.

Ultimately, those concerns were unfounded. Booth rolled to individual Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B titles in both the 50 freestyle and 100 breaststroke, and then went on to snag a pair of runner-up finishes in those events at the Class B state meet.

For his performance, Booth is the Central Maine boys swimmer of the season. Messalonskee’s Martin Guarnieri and Lawrence’s Nate Pierce were also considered.

“I was hoping to get some more records for my school, specifically the 50 free, but any others I could get,” Booth said. “And also drop as much time as I could.”

Booth did just that this season, setting team records in the 50 free (22.95) and 100 breaststroke (1:02.82), and he also owns program records in the 200 IM and 100 butterfly.

“Eric’s a swimmer who peaks exceptionally well in the postseason,” coach Justin Giroux said. “He trains really hard throughout the season.”

So hard, in fact, that Giroux acknowledged that Booth was “hitting a wall” early in the season.

“When you’re as good as Eric, it’s almost impossible to stay at your peak throughout the season,” Giroux said. “It does get discouraging, and he was a little bit behind where he was in-season last year. He kept hitting the pool, making changes, training hard and trying to keep a positive mindset.”

Booth was confident he could shake the slump in time, but he had his doubts.

“I was getting a little bit worried, because it was taking a little bit longer than normal to get back into it,” he said. “But I came around just in time for the big meets.”

It started with a dual meet, the last one of the season, against friendly rival Messalonskee.

“I (was) four seconds faster at that meet than I had at any other high school meet that season in the 100 breaststroke,” Booth said. “That really showed me I’m getting back into it now.”

The KVACs were next, and Booth continued his roll. The senior set a school record while winning the 50 free in 22.95 seconds, and his 100 breaststroke time of 1:02.82 was good for a second victory.

The 50 free record was a target for Booth all season.

“Going in, I was even more focused than I was during the Messalonskee meet,” he said. “I knew that was my second to last meet. Sometimes you can just have a bad day, or something goes wrong, so you have to make sure those last two meets are perfect. It worked out really well. I achieved all my goals for that day.”

Putting a swimmer in the 50 free is always a gamble, because the race is so short that any variable – a bad start, a clumsy turn – can cost a swimmer a victory. But Giroux knew Booth had the right skill set for the event.

“I always am a little nervous putting a swimmer in the 50 freestyle,” he said. “…(But) this season, I never regretted putting him in the 50 freestyle. He had a lot of fun doing it, he gave it his all.

“When Jake (Witham) set the record last year … I thought it was such a good record that it would be there a while. And one season later, right? It’s gone.”

Booth finished in the state meet with a 1:02.96 time in the 100 breaststroke and the same 22.95 time in the 50 free, both good for second.

“It went pretty well,” Booth said. “I definitely finished my high school career of swimming on a good note. I was very happy with it.”

It also finished off something of a transformation for Booth, who started off as a breaststroke swimmer but only started swimming the freestyle last year.

“He’s definitely focused as a breaststroker since the beginning,” Giroux said. “We started putting him in (the 50 free) more this year, and every time we put him in he had kind of a textbook swim.”

That was never more apparent than in the final meets of the year.

“He’s been awesome to coach,” Giroux said. “He honestly has defied all of my expectations.”

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