Some recipients of the Maine Sunday Telegram swimming MVP have been tall, broad-shouldered girls with wide wingspans.
Even a casual observer could see why they were good at propelling themselves from one end of the pool to the other.
Sarah Easterling, however, springs from a different mold. She’s a 5-foot-7 sophomore at Greely High who doesn’t display the type of overt musculature one might associate with infomercial models touting abdominal exercisers.
No, what Easterling has is something ineffable, something tactile. She tunes in to her aquatic surroundings in a way others simply do not. It’s almost as if she can sense the two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen as they flow across her skin.
“It’s a very good feel for the water,” said Coach Rob Hale, “because she’s not, physically, a big, strapping young lady.”
Easterling is a two-time Class B state champion in both the 100-yard backstroke and the 200 individual medley. She set a meet record of 59.40 seconds in the backstroke at the state meet and went on to win both events at the New England championships, setting a backstroke record in the process.
Her individual medley time of 2:09.58 was fastest in the state this year, regardless of class. She also posted the state’s fastest time in the 100 freestyle (54.09) and Class B’s fastest in the 100 breast stroke (1:08.44), although both performances came at the Southwesterns.
Her times are ranked among the state’s top 10 in all eight individual swimming events. In six of them, she ranks among the top three swimmers.
“The versatility surprised me,” Hale said. “I didn’t know she could be as good in all four strokes. She’s a very quiet kid but she didn’t want to shy away from any swimmers this year. I’d be doing the lineup and say, ‘Well, so-and-so might be there.’ She’d say, ‘I don’t care. I just want to race.’ “
Easterling, who had a hand in eight school and three pool records this winter, is our choice for MVP of girls swimming.
Born in Louisiana, Easterling moved to Maine at age 6. She is one minute older than her fraternal twin sister, Sidney, who also swims for Greely.
Sarah took to the competitive waters first, when she was 8. A few years later, Sidney followed.
“I just always loved the water,” Easterling said. “I loved going to the beach and I loved people’s pools.”
Her parents noticed and suggested she try club swimming.
“I fell in love with it,” she said.
The Easterling girls also played soccer and softball, but by the time Sarah was 12, she had forsaken them for swimming. She started with Seacoast Swim Club in Cumberland before switching to the Westbrook Seals, her current club.
“You have to be in the water constantly to keep yourself physically fit and keep your endurance going,” she said.
Before Easterling started swimming year-round, she found she would lose her feel for the water when she returned from a break. It took longer than she liked to regain her feel.
This fall, she had a decision facing most talented swimmers in Maine — to focus on her club team and get more individual attention, at the expense of giving up the team and social aspects of high school swimming.
She chose her school. She seems to like the feel of it.
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: