Cony swimmer Tessa Jorgensen rises out of water during the breaststroke leg of the 200 individual medley during a Feb. 5 virtual meet in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

If you’re an athlete who needs instant gratification, an athlete who wants to know as soon as the contest is over if you won, and if not, where did you finish in the pecking order… Well, let’s hope you were not a high school swimmer competing in Maine this past season.

“I was just really happy to be in the pool this year,” Messalonskee’s Jadyn Arnold, who won the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A titles in the 100 butterfl7 (55.24 seconds) and 100 backstroke (55.19), said

Every high school sport was affected by the coronavirus pandemic this winter — wrestlers were never allowed to do more than the most basic of workouts and did not see interscholastic competition — but sports like basketball, ice hockey and skiing allowed athletes to compete against opposing schools at the same events. Not so for swimming, which saw every meet conducted virtually.

You and your teammates swam a meet in your home pool, your coach submitted your results, then you waited for the opponent to do the same. No pulling your head out of the pool as soon as you touched the wall to get a look at how your time compared to the swimmer in the next lane.

“I felt that our team did a great job rallying together and getting excited about our virtual championships,” said Emma Farnham, a swimmer on the Waterville/Winslow cooperative team.

For Farnham and other swimmers around central Maine, patience was rewarded with victories in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship meets. On Feb. 24, Waterville/Winslow swam its virtual conference championship meet at Waterville’s Alfond Youth and Community Center. In mid-March, they learned the results. Farnham was Class B champion in the girls 50-yard freestyle (25.82 seconds) and the 500 freestyle (5:38.78).

“After looking at the rankings, my coaches and I decided that the 50-yard freestyle and the 500-yard freestyle were my best races. Leading up to the race I was excited to see how close I could come to my best times and be in the running for a top place,” Farnham said. “After my races that night I felt that they went well, but I still didn’t know how they matched up against the other teams in our division.”

With wins in five individual events and three relays, the Cony girls rolled to the KVAC A title with 268 points, well ahead of second-place Brunswick (181 points). Amanda Jorgensen won the 50 freestyle (26.12 seconds) and 100 freestyle (57.46 seconds) for the Rams.

“We were racing against our own teammates and acting like it was a meet,” Jorgensen said. “If you knew you did a personal best, you kind of knew you’d be high up (when results were announced).”

Tessa Jorgensen won the KVAC A 200 individual medley (2:21.22) for the Rams, while Lunden Dinkel was champion in the 100 butterfly (1:03.72) and Addie Burnham won the 500 freestyle (5:31.15) for Cony.

Erskine Academy swim coach Susan Burke and a few socially distant teammates cheer on competitors during a Feb. 10 virtual meet in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Andrew Turlo of Waterville/Winslow was the KVAC B boys champ in the 100 breaststroke (1:05.52).

While swimmers had to wait for final results, they knew they had times that gave them a chance to win a conference title.

“I knew once I broke the school record in the 100 back I had a chance,” Arnold said. “I learned (this season) to always push myself harder, especially through tough times.”

With no loud crowds or competition from rival schools in the pool, Maine swimmers found the 2020-21 season was much about channeling that inner drive to push yourself as much as anything.

“This season taught me that learning how to race yourself is really important. I also learned how important it is to create your own positive and exciting atmosphere,” Farnham said. “I think that next year if things go back to normal I will have a great appreciation for being able to race other people in person, and I look forward to continuing to be a part of the Maine swimming community.”

“When you’re swimming alone and going through the season with just your teammates, you need that drive,” Amanda Jorgensen said. “It proves how much perseverance and drive you have.”

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