With three national titles under his swim cap and a full athletic scholarship to Indiana University in his back pocket, James Wells of Morse High might have cruised through his senior season.

Instead he decided to spread his wings. He competed in events other than his best, and lifted more weights and trained harder, setting his sights on records at the YMCA nationals next month in Florida.

The result? For the first time in two years he lost a race, despite swimming faster than an existing state record. Robby Gravel of Scarborough edged Wells in the Class A 200-yard individual medley final in 1 minute, 55.08 seconds.

Wells, who had faster splits in every leg but the breast stroke, was second in 1:55.29. Both beat the old mark of 1:55.96 set by Scarborough’s Sean Flaherty eight years ago.

“Approaching the high school season, I still had a couple records to break,” said Wells, mentioning the 200 IM state mark and the 200 freestyle school mark held by Luke Traf-ton. “I tried to swim out of event as much as possible, to get as much racing as possible.”

No other schoolboy in Maine broke 2:00 this winter.

As Wells embarks on what likely will be an international career, he leaves a senior season with the fastest times in the state in half of the eight individual events and, in the other four, two seconds, a third and a fourth. The owner of four state records, he is a repeat selection as Sunday Telegram MVP for boys’ swimming.

“I never like to lose, that’s how I am,” Wells said. “But Robby’s a good friend of mine. He was great about it. He said without me pushing him, he never would have been able to go that fast. It was a fun race. I dropped a second in the prelims and two more in the finals and beat the state record. That was my main goal. So even though he beat me I can’t really be angry with that.”

Later in the meet, Wells won the 100 backstroke in 49.68 seconds, a state record that gained him status as an All-American by the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association. Other times this winter that gained him All-America consideration were in the 50 and 100 freestyle, 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley.

What Morse Coach Todd Marco may remember most, however, is the little things. Watching Wells remain in the pool, congratulating fellow racers and not leaving until everyone finished. Doing seemingly silly but athletically marvelous feats, such as touching the warning flags after leaping from the starting blocks and kicking the length of the pool underwater while holding three kickboards under the surface.

“His workout ethic is going to be missed tremendously,” Marco said of Wells, the lone male captain. “His humor and his funniness, too. He was a great all-around leader.”

Wells hold four state records (20.94 for the 50 free, 46.60 for the 100 free and 50.06 for the 100 butterfly, in addition to his backstroke mark) and two New England records (200 IM and 100 back). National records are what he’s after next.

“My speed hasn’t been up lately because of the intensity of the workouts,” Wells said. “I haven’t tapered yet, but in three weeks I’ll be rested and able to get my sprinting muscles back and hopefully go down there and turn some heads.”

 

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

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