CAPE ELIZABETH – The result was a foregone conclusion.
Cape Elizabeth had clinched the Class B boys’ swimming and diving title after the 100-metre breaststroke, so it didn’t matter what the Capers did in the final 400-metre freestyle relay on Monday night at Richards Pool. And yet, in the middle of a long pause before the second and final leg of this relay came the sound… of applause.
No, no applause. The sound was… slapping. Open palms repeatedly crush bare chest and supple thighs. Without spectators, without any public announcements, the swimmers themselves filled the void with a gathering noise that might give mountain gorillas pause.
“Everyone was super excited behind the blocks, all the teams together,” Cape Elizabeth senior Keegan McKenney said. “It was a good vibe, a good vibe.”
Fired up enough, McKenney and teammates David Steinbrick, Ethan Smith and his brother Cormac McKenney put an exclamation mark on their state championship by setting a meet record that also improved a school grade that had stood since 1983, there are more than twice their lives.
Their time of 3 minutes, 16.50 seconds was nearly 10 seconds better than their closest challengers, Greely High, and still 12 seconds faster than Mt. Desert Island, who had won the previous three titles. ‘Class B condition.
“We’ve been trying to break that record since we were freshmen,” Keegan McKenney said. “It means a lot to finally do it in my last race, Ethan’s last race. We were all super excited.
The Capers finished with 409 points to easily outrun MDI (345). Greely was a distant third at 290, followed by Ellsworth (199.5), Morse (168.5), Belfast (149), Freeport (111), John Bapst (105) and a dozen other schools.
McKenney won two individual victories (500m freestyle and 200m individual medley) to accompany the winning 200 and 400 freestyle relays. He was named Performer of the Meet for the second time, having won it as a sophomore in 2020.
Smith, another senior, was Cape’s only other individual winner. He won the 100 butterfly in 51.45 and placed second in the 50 freestyle. Cape Elizabeth also got the top three performances from sophomores Steinbrick (second in 100 backstroke and third in 200 freestyle), Cormac McKenney (third in 200 IM and 100 breaststroke) and Jack McCormick (third in 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke) .
These three sophomores, along with rookie Graham Plourde, started the competition by winning the 200 medley relay in 1:41.49.
Freeport senior Brian Brogan was the only two-time individual winner besides McKenney. Brogan won the 50 and 100 freestyles as the top seed in both events.
The only event with an upset winner was the 200m freestyle, in which junior Greely Matt Desmond came from a seeded deficit of more than five seconds ahead of senior teammate Charter Sasseville and Steinbrick to win in 1:46 .79. Desmond has a long competitive history with Sasseville.
“I’ve been running against him since sixth grade,” Desmond said. “It was the first time I beat him.”
That it fell to within a tenth of a second of a school record didn’t seem to bother him. “I’m so happy,” he said.
Sasseville came back to win the 100 backstroke in 55.04. Ellsworth senior Nick Patridge won the 100 breaststroke in 57.70, and Belfast senior Ronin Deschamps won the diving (227.50 points), which took place on Saturday.
Although the standings showed Cape Elizabeth a comfortable advantage going into the competition, coach Ben Raymond told his team to ignore the score.
“It starts zero-zero,” he said. “You don’t get any points. You must earn everything you get throughout the competition.
So, having the chance to make it through the final race, they opted for a different route to crowning their first state title since 2015.
“We like to finish strong,” McKenney said. “The last one, fast.”
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