AUGUSTA — Like most high school swimming teams, Cony High School will compete in yet another unusual season during the coronavirus pandemic.

Unlike the 2020 campaign, when all meets were held virtually, the Rams are enjoying the prospect of competing against other teams, and in front of small crowds, as well.

That was evident Friday night at the Kennebec Valley YMCA, when Cony hosted Belfast.

Not only did the Rams get to compete, but many swimmers enjoyed the lively banter often found at a meet.

“It brings back the sort of normalcy that it was pre-COVID,” said Cony senior Emma Crosby. “I’m definitely glad to see people back together, rooting for each other. It feels great to have that sort of support again. Because with the virtual meets, it was practically teams racing themselves.”

Last season, the Rams competed in virtual events at their home pool. Times would be recorded and then matched up with an opponent’s. With no fans in attendance and only teammates allowed on the deck, virtual meets were essentially competitive practices for the athletes.

“I think it was a struggle mentally last season to even get close to our best times,” Cony senior Lunden Dinkel said. “I guess it’s just kind of a relief (to have in-house competition back).”

Competing in live events provides extra motivation, swimmers said Friday.

“Especially during the beginning of a race, it’s good to have your competition next to you,” Dinkel said. “It’s nice to be swimming next to a living person. It’s like being chased by a shark.”

The Rams are also enjoying having fans attend home meets, albeit maybe on a smaller scale. Cony is allowing home fans only for athletic events during the winter season. On Friday night, 18 fans were poolside for the Belfast meet.

“I missed (having fans),” Cony junior Tyler Foster said. “It helps you, it pushes you. It’s very encouraging, you want to do the best you can.”

Cony’s Lunden Dinkel pops up to breath while competing in the 100-yard breaststroke during a Dec. 17 meet against Belfast at the Kennebec Valley YMCA in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Cony has low numbers this season. There’s few boys on the team, not enough to rack up points and consistently beat other boys teams. The numbers are down on the girls side as well, a far cry from when the Rams won consecutive Class A championships in 2017 and 2018.

“We filled up a bus (during that time),” Crosby said. “Now, it’s just a few rows. I can see the difference, but we’re keeping ourselves motivated.”

There’s no lack of talent in the pool for Cony. On the boys side, Foster (58.10) won the 100-yard freestyle, beating second-place finisher Miles Cannon by 10 seconds. Foster also finished second in the 50 freestyle (25.04). Teammate Jameson Russell picked up victories in the 100 backstroke (1:07.05) and the 100 butterfly (59.84). Cony picked up several victories on the girls side, with Crosby winning the 100 fly (1:10.54) and Dinkel winning the 200 individual medley (2:31.74). Dinkel also dominated the 100 breaststroke (1:14.75). She finished 13 seconds faster than runnerup Finley Marriner (1:27.59). Despite the win, Dinkel said she can go faster.

“That’s not my best time, that is my event, usually,” Dinkel said. “I think in a normal season, I’d be going 1:08.”

Cony also has some promising youngsters, as Emily Kennard (26.28) won the 50 free, while Annabelle Orth won the 100 free (59.96) and 100 backstroke (1:11.56).

 

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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