Wednesday, March 12, 2014
WESTBROOK - The outcome of the meet was no longer in question -- the boys of Cheverus High were well on their way to ending a 12-year drought at the North Southwesterns Swimming & Diving Championships -- when Trebor Lawton and Jerry Gravel pushed off in adjacent lanes at Davan Pool.
The race was the 100-yard backstroke. The meet record, only a year old, was 53.85 seconds. Only one boy in the history of Maine high school swimming -- Morse graduate James Wells -- had broken 53 seconds.
Until Monday night.
Gravel, a senior at Scarborough who won this same Southwesterns backstroke as a freshman with a time of 57 seconds, touched the wall in a blazing 52.08 seconds.
Not good enough.
Lawton had arrived a moment earlier, in 51.67.
"That was a lot of fun," said Gravel, who was closing on Lawton over the final 25 yards. "I hope we can race at states in something."
Lawton also won the 50 freestyle in 21.72 seconds -- less than a tenth off the meet record but good enough to take down the Cheverus school record set by Olympian Ian Crocker -- and staked the Stags to a four-second lead with the opening backstroke leg (24.33) of the 200 medley relay.
He was voted Outstanding Performer of the Meet and Cheverus -- on the strength of 20 scoring swimmers and divers -- cruised to a 327-219 victory over two-time defending champion Greely. Deering was third at 197 followed by Cape Elizabeth (180), Scarborough (177), Falmouth (122), Westbrook (104) and South Portland (53).
"I saw him start to come up on me in the last 25," Lawton said of Gravel. "I was really nervous because I know Jerry's a really good swimmer. I've been swimming with him since I was 5 years old."
That's when Cheverus won the last of five consecutive Southwesterns titles, in 2001. The Stags lost by seven to Greely a year ago, then seemed a shoo-in for this year's meet before mononucleosis swept through the team.
Senior Reed Fernandez missed a month and swam for only the second time since returning to school last week. He placed third in the 100 freestyle and swam on the 200 and 400 freestyle relays, both of which finished second by less than half a second, to Cape Elizabeth (200) and Deering (400).
"Even though the (overall) score wasn't close, the individual kids on the other teams gave us a run for our money," Fernandez said. "I've never jumped in the pool before (to celebrate a championship), so that's kind of fulfilling."
Classmate Connor Pothier and juniors Tim Jerome and John Devine also recovered from mono to score individual and relay points for the Stags, who also got big points from sophomore Spencer Lindsley and freshmen Jacob Griffin, Kevin Kane and Michael O'Donovan.
"We were able to fill every event and score both relays, A and B," said Stags Coach Kevin Haley. "It's the strongest team in Cheverus history."
Lawton's backstroke was one of three meet records that fell Monday night. Gravel took down his brother Robby's two-year-old mark in the 200 individual medley with a time of 1:57.11. Falmouth sophomore Jake Perron followed up a victory in the 200 freestyle with a record 4:46.71 in the 500 free, lowering the mark set by Deering's Arik Seiler in 2004.
The only other double winner was Greely junior Jonathan Dunnett, who knocked off the top seed in both the 100 butterfly and the 100 breast stroke. The other individual winners were Cape Elizabeth senior Evan Long in the 100 free and Deering senior Dylan Farber in diving, which was completed Thursday night in South Portland but announced Monday night.
Scarborough freshman Seth Jackson, an alternate filling in for a teammate in the 500 free, had a gutsy performance. Using flip turns for the first time in competition, Jackson shaved 35 seconds off his seed time to finish in 7:13. "It was a real struggle, but I think I did good," said Jackson. "I was only a lap behind everyone else."
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: