CUMBERLAND – Greely High senior Sarah Easterling, a two-time Maine Sunday Telegram Swimmer of the Year, will continue her career as a scholarship athlete at the University of Arkansas.

In a brief ceremony at the Greely pool Monday afternoon, flanked by her father and her twin sister, Sidney, Easterling signed a copy of the letter of intent she actually mailed to Fayetteville more than a week ago during the NCAA’s early signing period.

Greely held off the ceremony until Monday because Coach Rob Hale didn’t want to run afoul of Maine Principals’ Association rules regarding out-of-season contact.

Easterling moved to Maine from New Orleans at the age of 5. Her maternal grandparents live in Little Rock, located about 200 miles from the university in Fayetteville, which is where her parents met 35 years ago.

“My parents are on cloud nine,” said Kim Easterling, Sarah’s mom.

“I think the whole town (of Little Rock) knows their granddaughter is going to be swimming for U of A.”

At Greely, Sarah Easterling set school records in every individual swimming event save the 500-yard freestyle, and was a member of the three record-setting relay teams. She is a three-time Class B state champion in both the 100 backstroke and 200 individual medley.

“I knew she was physically talented as a freshman,” Hale said, “but by the end of her freshman year, at the state meet, I knew it wasn’t just a physical gift. I could see there was a drive in there behind the pretty face.

“It’s deceiving. I mean, she’s a really, really nice kid. You don’t realize how competitive she is. You put on a cap and add water and she’s a pit bull.”

Next fall, she’ll be a Razorback, swimming for a new head coach, Sean Schimmel, who took over the Arkansas program after four years at Maryland, a school that pulled the plug on swimming — and six other sports — last June.

Easterling, who also had offers from Western Kentucky and Florida Gulf Coast, spoke with Jenni Roberts of Sanford and Laura Flewelling of Scarborough — both of whom swam at Maryland for Schimmel — before making her choice.

“That actually played a huge factor in my decision, getting the inside scoop,” Easterling said. “They liked him as a coach.”

Other factors were the proximity of her grandparents, the challenge of competing in the Southeastern Conference and her comfort with the team during her October recruiting visit. “Everything put together, how I felt when I visited,” she said, “it just all clicked.”

Sidney Easterling, who also swims but not at the same level as her sister, is applying to Alabama and Mississippi State.

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

gjordan@pressherald.com

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH