AUGUSTA — With one of the largest teams in the state and the talent to match, the Gardiner/Hall-Dale girls swim team is ready to make some noise come championship meets.

With a 96-57 victory over Erskine Academy on Tuesday night at the Kennebec Valley YMCA, the Tigers (8-1) head into the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B championship meet with plenty of momentum. The meet is scheduled for Friday, weather permitting.

“It’s been pretty awesome,” said senior Grace Milliken. “It just goes to show the work that we’ve put in. Every year, we do pretty well. With the numbers that we have (this year) and this ability, we’re doing good for the season, definitely.”

The Tigers will enter the conference championships with 18 swimmers.

“We’ve had a really good season, it’s nice having a big team,” coach Rob Pekins said. “It gives us a big advantage. We have a mixture of beginners. We have a mix of girls who have been swimming a long time. My two daughters (Livi and Caylyn Pekins) have been swimming since they were 2, competitively, since they were 5. Grace (Milliken) has been swimming for a number of years. It’s been nice to have a mixture of kids that are more advanced and are able to pass on (knowledge) to the other ones. We’ve got some kids that came on two years ago that have stayed on and want to do better. It’s been a really exciting year.”

The Tigers showed both their talent and depth in their win over the Eagles. Livi Pekins won the 200-yard individual medley (2:43.15) and the 100-yard breaststroke (1:19.37), a spirited race that saw Pekins edge Erskine’s Stephanie Kumnick (1:21.03). Gardiner/Hall-Dale also earned individual wins from Renee Molesworth in the 100 butterfly (1:23.47) and Cassidy Clark in the 100 backstroke (1:20.86). The Tigers also won the 200 medley relay (with the team of Livi Pekins, Caylyn Pekins, Molesworth and Milliken) with a time of 2:24.69. The same group also won the 200 free relay (2:08.76).


“A lot of the girls — I’d say maybe 90 percent of the girls — can do all four strokes,” Rob Pekins said. “Which was a huge advantage. Maybe not perfect, but a little tweaking, and there you go.”

Gardiner’Hall-Dale’s Grace Milliken does the breaststroke in the girls 200 yard medley relay during a swim meet against Erskine on Tuesday at the Kennebec Valley YMCA in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

More than anything, the Tigers are enjoying being back in the pool against competition this season, a major change from last year when the team was competing in virtual meets. Having competition back in the pool has helped provide an extra spark for Gardiner/Hall-Dale.

“For me, personally, (the pandemic) was a major setback,” said Livi Pekins, a junior. “I was definitely more in shape my freshman year compared to my sophomore year, because we had that much time off.”

“Last year, we had no competition against us,” Milliken added. “It was all virtual swimming (last year). It’s always an extra push when you’re swimming against competition (from another team).”

As the season winds down, the Tigers are enjoying the ride.

“You can always count on someone cheering you at the end (of a race),” Livi Pekins said. “We all push each other to do our best.”

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