February 25, 2010

Shipbuilders' Wells follows his plan


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Photo by John Ewing/Staff Photographer... Tuesday, December 8, 2009...James Wells, a senior at Morse High School in Bath, should be the state's top swimmer this season. Wells does his training swims in sneakers to strengthen his legs.

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Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer: James Wells of Morse set a new record in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 50.02 at the Class A boys' swimming and diving championships at Bowdoin College on Tuesday, February 17, 2009.

Staff Writer

James Wells, a senior at Morse High, has reached the top of Maine's high school swimming world, setting state records and accepting a scholarship offer to Indiana University.

Now he's working on the bottom.

Specifically, his feet. In an effort to improve his kick, Wells has taken to wearing sneakers in the pool, and he's convinced his Shipbuilders teammates to join in the effort.

Every Tuesday has become Shoe Tuesday.

''We think it's really helped me out,'' Wells said.

The suggestion came from Indiana head coach Ray Looze, who won the recruiting battle for Wells over such schools as Ohio State, Michigan, West Point, Stanford and Texas.

''I wanted to be at a school that wasn't on top yet, but where I could really make a difference,'' Wells said. ''Indiana is definitely improving, I liked all the swimmers there and the relationship with the coach was definitely one of the best that I had.''

Last winter, Wells set state records in the 100-yard backstroke (49.88 seconds) and the 100 butterfly (50.06). He set pool records at the University of Maine (100 back) and Bowdoin College (50 back).

Last spring, he won three gold medals (50 freestyle and 100 and 200 backstroke) at the YMCA Short Course national championships in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. In July he competed at the U.S. national championships in Indianapolis alongside Olympians. Last weekend he swam in the U.S. Short Course nationals in Federal Way, Wash.

His high school season opened Tuesday night in Augusta against Cony.

''He hasn't changed much at all,'' said Morse High Coach Todd Marco. ''He knows he still has to get through this year.''

Wells is one of the Shipbuilder captains. The camaraderie and cohesion involved in high school swimming remain important to him.

''High school swimming is a lot more for the team aspect,'' he said. ''The high school thing is mainly to hang out with my friends at the school.''

Once in the pool, Wells has a few more challenges. The state records in the breast stroke and the 500 freestyle are probably out of reach, but he would like to put his name on top of the list in all the other individual events. The national high school record of 46.75 for the 100 backstroke is another possibility.

''I'm definitely hoping to break some more records,'' he said, ''and improve upon my times.''

Unlike last winter, Wells prepared for this season by building up his endurance with double sessions. Similarly, he laced up the shoes before diving in to force himself to work harder on his strokes.

Soon enough, he will begin speed work to take advantage of his solid base.

''My endurance is doing well, but I'm not fast enough yet,'' he said. In the recent national meet in Washington, ''I didn't do great, but I got my times about to where they were before I shaved and tapered for nationals (last summer).''

In the classroom, Wells maintains a solid average and takes advanced placement courses in math and physics. He is leaning toward a physics major in college, and biomedical engineering is something he might like to explore.

But Bloomington can wait. Wells still has a few loose ends -- and laces -- to tie up.

''Now that I have the college thing kind of taken care of, it's definitely allowing me to focus more on my swimming,'' he said. ''At this point, we're just trying to see how fast we can go.''

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


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