ELLSWORTH — The last home meet for the Ellsworth swim team this season didn’t feel like the end; instead, it felt like a sendoff.
True, it was the final home meet for 12 Ellsworth seniors, and there was no shortage of emotions as those swimmers entered and left the Down East Family YMCA pool. Yet for the Eagles, whose boys’ and girls’ teams boast talent and experience, it also served as a bridge to the season’s biggest stage.
“It’s definitely a bit of sadness because this is the pool most of us have been coming to our whole lives, but at the end of the day, I think it’s more about looking forward for us,” senior Ellie Clarke said. “I think we’ve known for a while that we would be competing well at the end of the year, and we’re excited because that’s here now.”
With championship season set to begin, Friday’s meet against George Stevens Academy served as one final tune-up as the team makes its championship preparations. Seniors Clarke (girls’ 200-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke), Katie Hammer (girls’ 50-yard freestyle), Miriam Nelson (girls’ 500-yard freestyle) and Sam Pelletier (boys’ 100-yard backstroke) earned individual victories for Ellsworth, which won every event.
On the boys’ side, this year’s seniors were freshmen when Ellsworth won the Class B title in 2016. The Eagles have had even more success since then with second-place finishes at states the past two years and a PVC crown last year.
“The taste it put in our mouths when we won that first year really helped drive us,” Holmes said. “For those of us who were freshman kids, being part of something so exciting really pushed us all the way through.”
The girls’ team improved from sixth place and 11th place at the 2017 PVC and state championships, respectively to sixth and eighth last year. After a year that’s brought about countless personal and team records, Clarke is confident the Eagles can make an even bigger leap this season.
“I think we have a good chance to place top three [at PVCs],” Clarke said. “We’ve gotten better with every meet, and we’re definitely going to be ready to go.”
For the team’s head coach, Jim Goodman, the weeks to come will bring about plenty of difficult decisions. Swimmers can compete in a maximum of four events, two or three of which must be relay events.
“You’re trying to give your swimmers the best chance to succeed, and you’re also trying to guess where some of the other teams are going to put their kids,” Goodman said. “It can be tough, but that’s just something that comes with being a coach.”
Clarke expects to swim the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke in her individual races. As for Holmes, who has earned multiple individual and relay state titles over the years and was PVC Swimmer of the Meet in 2017, he doesn’t want to tip his hand.
“I have a pretty good idea,” he said with a smile. “Let’s just say I’m pumped for it and really confident.”
The PVC boys’ championships will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8, and the girls’ championships are set to begin at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9. Both events will be held at the University of Maine.
Currently, Ellsworth has a school-record 23 swimmers qualified for the state meet later this month. Goodman said he hopes to get one or two more swimmers qualified for states at this weekend’s competitions.
“With that extra week behind us, I think we’re going to be really ready when we go out there,” Goodman said. “With so many kids qualified for us, there are a lot of opportunities to go out there and swim well.”