The transition between coaches can be bumpy and problematic or smooth and successful.
Sarah Rubin, a former Gorham High assistant who has taken over the Deering program, said her path has been unusually easy in large part because of the team captains: Eric Delmonte, Alex Tucci, Kylie Patchell and Emma Pontius.
The four seniors managed to keep alive team traditions while welcoming Rubin, a middle-school teacher in Gorham who also had been an assistant coach for the Portland YMCA swim program. Rubin swam at Sanford High and Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore.
Pontius, in particular, has emerged from the long shadow cast by Genna Worthley – a three-time Class A champion in the 200 individual medley and state record holder in the 100 breast stroke (1:03.72) who now swims for Eastern Michigan – to organize team dinners, poster-making, dressing up alike on the days of meets and “a special girls’ team tradition that has something to do with bears,” Rubin said. “She’s done all of this while leading her lane, encouraging and helping teach our dozen or so new swimmers, and being a great student.”
Pontius has yet to lose an individual race this season and has helped win three of her four relays. The Deering girls have beaten Scarborough and Westbrook, and lost narrowly to Cape Elizabeth. The Deering boys are 3-0.
Pontius is one of the eight Deering swimmers who attend Casco Bay High, “so I think her spirit and commitment to Deering High School swimming is especially incredible since she isn’t technically even a student there,” Rubin said. “She’s also swimming every morning before school for her club team.”
Pontius, joined by freshman Wyeth Spike, and sophomores Sofie deOliveira and Kate Pontius, is part of a 200 medley relay ranked second in Class A and a 400 free relay ranked third. She plans to continue her swimming career at the University of Maine, where she hopes to study marine biology.
Delmonte, who is ranked among the top four swimmers in Class A in five events this season, will continue his career at Virginia Tech.
Oh, and about those bears: Apparently, Pontius and Patchell start the season with two teddy bears bedecked in purple Deering paraphernalia. At each meet the bears find their way into the backpacks or lockers of two teammates, who bask in good luck and warm fuzzies until the next meet, when the charming ritual is repeated.
Rubin doesn’t know how it got started but she’s happy to have it continue.
“Although I’ve known (Pontius) for an incredibly short time,” she said, “it would have been difficult to take on this role without the leadership of her and our three other captains.”
HEIGHT CAN BE a significant advantage in swimming, said Cape Elizabeth senior Caroline Herriman, who stands 6-foot-1.
“Height helps in pretty much everything but especially in back and free,” she said.
All of which may help explain why Herriman, a member of the 200 medley relay team that set a state record last winter, has been recruited by Columbia University …
… to row crew.
Even though she has never set foot in a scull.
“It sounds odd,” Herriman said, “but with my height, and swimming is a good sport to transition, but it’s still kind of weird.”
Herriman said she plans to row for Waynflete in the spring. Her older brother, Teddy, rowed four years at Waynflete.
“That’s the plan, anyway,” Herriman said. “I still have to talk to the Waynflete coaches.”
A girl who is both tall and athletic and wants to pull an oar? Hard to believe the Waynflete coaches will have any objection to Herriman joining their team, which welcomes rowers from several schools to their Fore River facilities.
ALLITERATION RETURNS for the state championship meets, with Class A in Orono and Class B in Brunswick in mid-February. The A meets will run on Saturday and Monday at the University of Maine, and the B meets on Monday and Tuesday at Bowdoin College between Feb. 15 and 18.
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or: