The Camden Hills girls’ swim team, with first-year head coach Mark McCluskey on the left, celebrates after winning the Class A state title in Cape Elizabeth on Feb. 22. Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald

Competitors in every high school sport view themselves as taking part in a team sport, in which every athlete contributes to the whole. Even in an individual sport like swimming that’s true, with each athlete’s results another piece in the team’s effort.

No team personified that concept more in the 2021-22 school year than the Camden Hills girls’ swim team.

In February, the Windjammers won their first Class A state championship, dominating the Class A state meet with 287 points, well ahead of runner-up Thornton Academy’s 196. It was Camden Hills’ first girls’ swimming state title since 1981, when it won the Class B crown.

“They are also the Varsity Maine Girls’ Team of the Year.

The Windjammers won their title without a single individual champion. Camden Hills won two of the three relay events, the 200 medley relay to begin the meet at Cape Elizabeth High on Feb. 22 and the 400 freestyle relay to close the meet. Everything in between was a testament to the Windjammers’ team depth.

“We have a lot of depth on our team, and everyone really wants to be the best swimmer and best person they can be. We all really felt that positive energy,” said Gail Curtis, a Camden Hills senior, as she celebrated the victory with her team.


By racking up points in every event, Camden Hills led the Class A state meet wire to wire. Sarah Van Lonkhuyzen placed second in the 200 individual medley, while teammate Sadie Woodruff placed fourth. Karla Upham took fourth in 50 freestyle and fifth in the 100 fly. Lily Mott was third in the 100 backstroke, and Woodruff placed fourth in the 100 breast stroke.

First-year head coach Mark McCluskey knew his team had the depth to challenge for a state title. As a senior at Camden Hills in 2015, McCluskey won the Class B state title in the 50 freestyle. McCluskey was also a member of Camden Hills’ state championship-winning 200 freestyle relay team.

“We just have unbelievable depth. In every single race, we had somebody in that top heat. They are great about staying on top of each other and pushing each other,” said McCluskey as he dried off after his victorious team threw him in the pool. “Yeah, we might not have that superstar, but they know putting it all together, they can get the win.”

Throughout the season, the Windjammers showed they didn’t need a superstar, and that success culminated with the state meet victory. At the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship leading up to the state meet, Camden Hills showed just how strong its depth was. Camden Hills won the conference title with 335 points, well ahead of second-place Cony’s 190.

At the KVAC meet, the Windjammers did score in every event, with five individual titles won by four swimmers. Upham took first place in the 50 free and 100 fly. Rana Abess won the 500 free. Woodruff won the 200 IM, and Van Lonkhuyzen took first in the 100 free. Those wins, combined with victories in the 400 freestyle relay and 200 freestyle relay, were more than enough for the Windjammers to dominate the meet.

McCluskey, who swam in college at Howard University, said his team was eager to listen to their new coach from the start of the season.

“They bought in to what we were practicing, from what we were trying to do from Day 1, with maturity that, frankly, I didn’t have when I was in high school. I swam in a collegiate program and I just tried to do with them what we did in college,” McCluskey said at the KVAC meet. “That’s a tough challenge for some kids that are just trying to have some fun after school. But they understood that if they put in the time and the effort, they would see the results, and they did.”

For his work with the team, McCluskey was named Varsity Maine Girls’ Swimming Coach of the Year.

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