February means more than groundhogs, school vacation and presidential discounts. This month also ushers in the Southwesterns, where swimmers from Southern Maine gear up for state championships with two weekends of frenzied competition, first in Cape Elizabeth and then in Westbrook.

Mothers, if your son comes home from swim practice with a hideously dyed and clipped hairstyle, worry not. It’ll be shaved off in a few weeks for the state meet. Meanwhile, snap plenty of pictures. Your grandchildren will love you for it.

The South Southwesterns get underway Thursday (postponed by Tuesday’s snow) with diving preliminaries in South Portland. Swimming is scheduled to begin Friday (boys) at 5 p.m. and Saturday (girls) at 3 p.m., both in Cape Elizabeth.

Waynflete provides a new wrinkle this year, as its 12-girl team has at least one swimmer seeded among the top three in seven individual events. The Flyers are also seeded first in two relays and second in the 200 free relay.

“They’re very excited about it,” said Waynflete Coach Jim Harvey, whose nascent team will attempt to win its first Southwesterns title in 63 years.

Sanford, Windham and Thornton Academy are among the favorites. For the boys, Windham and Massabesic both look strong, with Kennebunk in the mix as well. Fourteen schools are scheduled to compete.

“This meet should have some great racing,” said Windham Coach Peter Small.

Athletes can swim in no more than two individual events and no more than three overall, one fewer than at states.

“That makes (Waynflete) even more thin,” said Harvey.

The North Southwesterns are scheduled for next weekend in Westbrook, with Greely, Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth, Deering, McAuley and Cheverus among the top teams. Diving preliminaries are also scheduled in South Portland, with the final three of 11 dives coming between the 50-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly of the swim meets.

 

ROB CARD has enjoyed a long coaching career, first at Westbrook and now at South Portland. With two meets left in his season, he has an interesting streak going. A new Red Riots swimmer has qualified for the state championships in every single meet, the first such season Card can remember.

The latest to do so was senior Syndey Damion-Loring, who touched the wall in the 500-yard freestyle in 6 minutes, 29.78 seconds, just making the qualifying standard Thursday in a meet with Yarmouth.

This is her third year swimming, and first time making the state meet.

 

THE RECENT Falmouth Diving Invitational in Brunswick attracted a field of 13 boys and 14 girls. Under an 11-dive format, Nicola Mancini of Falmouth won decisively with a score of 375.35 points. Kayla Purington of Brunswick was the only other diver to break 300.

For the boys, Tyler Goulden of Thornton Academy earned 299.70 points to beat Kevin Flathers of Cape Elizabeth (284.60).

One week earlier, Goulden broke the school record at the Southern Maine Invitational in Biddeford with a score of 401.50. Keith Burgie held the old mark of 303.70, set in 2004.

CHEVERUS COACH Kevin Haley entered the season with what appeared to be one of the weakest boys’ teams in school history. Illness further interrupted training.

Even so, Haley’s team makes him proud because of the effort put forth.

His boys “showed the last couple of weeks that they are strong, but not deep.”

One pleasant surprise has been the improvement of several divers under the tutelage of assistant coach Mike Bartley.

Michael Gordon and Nick Jensen joined Maria Cianchette and Erin Bucci in qualifying for states.

 

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: [email protected]