The season began Saturday for the University of Maine men’s and women’s swimming teams in the Husky Invitational in Storrs, Conn.

But the preseason, in the Black Bears’ minds, began in the second week of September with a night hike up Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.

“I was really nervous that people wouldn’t be happy about getting up so early, but everyone was really excited,” women’s captain Lauren Thornbrough said. “We got there and the freshmen said, ‘this is the coolest thing we’ve ever done.’ That’s how I felt my freshman year when I did it. It helped us come together”

The Black Bears met at 1:30 a.m., broke into carpool groups coordinated by the captains and drove to the trailhead, then hiked to the summit in time for the sunrise.

“Freshman year I was told that if you’re not from Maine, you hike up Cadillac Mountain to see the sun rise for good luck,” said Thornbrough, a senior who swims the freestyle, butterfly and individual medley events.

There were some challenging moments on the hike up the 1,530-foot mountain.

“We got lost a couple of times, and it was very cold and windy,” said the men’s captain, Brian Landry, who specializes in the breast stroke and individual medley.

“But all those factors combined helped us get to know each other better and get closer.”

After the Husky Invitational, which was a nonscoring meet, the men’s team will compete today at Bryant.

“We want to continue our success that we had last year,” said Landry, whose team was 5-3 in dual meets. “We moved up a spot in America East (at the championships), and in the preseason polls we’re picked to finish fourth. We want to improve on that and finish third, and have another winning record in dual meets.”

The women’s team finished 5-6 last year and after the Husky Invitational, will compete today in the New England College Challenge at Harvard.

“This year our main focus is still having great sportsmanship and great team bonding,” Thornbrough said.

“We have some phenomenal new freshmen. It’s going to add greatly to our team as a whole. I’m pretty confident that we’re going to beat some teams we came close to last year, but we didn’t have that final push to get points.”

HOLLY STEWART, a freshman on the Maine field hockey team, was named the America East rookie of the week for the second time this season.

Stewart, a forward from North Vancouver, British Columbia, had three goals and two assists in a pair of games for Maine — a 6-1 victory Oct. 15 at Fairfield and a 5-4 win Oct. 16 at Hofstra.

Stewart has 11 goals and six assists in 16 games for the Black Bears.

Maine will close the regular season Oct. 29 at home against Vermont.

THE MEN’S BASKETBALL TEAM was selected to finish sixth in America East in the league’s preseason poll released last week. Boston University was picked to win the nine-team league, ahead of Stony Brook and Vermont.

Maine, which finished 15-15 (9-7 America East) last season, will open Nov. 14 against Maine-Machias at Alfond Arena.

The women’s basketball team was selected to finish ninth in America East in the league’s preseason polls.

The Black Bears finished 4-25 (2-19 in America East) last season and will open Nov. 11 at Central Connecticut State.

UMBC was picked to win the nine-team conference ahead of Boston University and Hartford.

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

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