March 20, 2011

Girls Swimming MVP: A feel for the water, and a desire to be the best

Sarah Easterling of Greely has proven not only her talent, but her versatility in individual events.

By Glenn Jordan
Staff Writer

Some recipients of the Maine Sunday Telegram swimming MVP have been tall, broad-shouldered girls with wide wingspans.

click image to enlarge

Sarah Easterling of Greely used to play soccer and softball but by the time she was 12, had decided that swimming – not just club but school swimming – was for her.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer


Emily Buczkowski, Morse senior

Successfully defended Class A state titles in both the 50 and 100 freestyle races. Also swam the opening leg of the championship 200 medley relay and anchor leg of the winning 200 free relay. Plans to continue her career at the University of Maine.

Chelsey Curran, Mt. Desert Island senior

Won the Class B freestyle in 25.39 seconds and placed second to Easterling in the 100 back stroke. Also swam the opening legs for MDI's victorious 200 medley and 200 free relays.

Sarah Easterling, Greely sophomore

Successfully defended Class B state titles in both the 100 backstroke (setting a meet record of 59.40 seconds) and in the 200 individual medley, with a time of 2:09.58 -- nearly four seconds faster than last year's.

Colby Harvey, Waynflete freshman

Won the Class B 100 butterfly in 59.17 for the Flyers, who revived a program dormant for half a century. Also placed second to Easterling in the 200 individual medley and helped Waynflete to second in the 400 free relay.

Jamie Hunsaker, Bangor sophomore

Class A champion in the 200 and 500 freestyle, and swam a leg of the victorious 400 free relay to help lead the Rams to their 18th state title but first in three years.

Nicola Mancini, Falmouth junior

Handily defended her Class A diving title with an eye-popping score of 416.50 points. The first schoolgirl champ to surpass 400 points in the state meet since Katie Mailman of Falmouth set the meet record in 1998.

Sara Schad, Greely junior

Two-time Class B champion in the 100 freestyle. Also won the 200 free in 1:59.91 and contributed to New England relay records in the 200 and 400 freestyle. The latter time of 3:40.53 broke Greely's own state record set earlier in the season.

Emma Waddell, Bangor freshman

Class A champ in the 100 butterfly with a time of 58.25. Runner-up in the 200 IM. Anchored a victorious 400 free relay team to help the Rams to the state title. Had the state's top times in butterfly and 200 and 500 free.

Genevieve Worthely, Deering sophomore

Not only defended her Class A title in the 100 breast stroke, but set a state record of 1:05.08 in the process. Also won the 200 individual medley in 2:09.80.

Coach of the Year

Tony DeMuro, Mt. Desert Island

In his ninth year as head coach, DeMuro led the Trojans to their first Class B girls' state title since 1989. MDI knocked off defending champion Greely -- and beat the Rangers in two of the three relays. "In order to beat us this year he had to have a complete team effort," Greely Coach Rob Hale said. "He was able to get every one of his girls to rise to the occasion."

Even a casual observer could see why they were good at propelling themselves from one end of the pool to the other.

Sarah Easterling, however, springs from a different mold. She's a 5-foot-7 sophomore at Greely High who doesn't display the type of overt musculature one might associate with infomercial models touting abdominal exercisers.

No, what Easterling has is something ineffable, something tactile. She tunes in to her aquatic surroundings in a way others simply do not. It's almost as if she can sense the two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen as they flow across her skin.

"It's a very good feel for the water," said Coach Rob Hale, "because she's not, physically, a big, strapping young lady."

Easterling is a two-time Class B state champion in both the 100-yard backstroke and the 200 individual medley. She set a meet record of 59.40 seconds in the backstroke at the state meet and went on to win both events at the New England championships, setting a backstroke record in the process.

Her individual medley time of 2:09.58 was fastest in the state this year, regardless of class. She also posted the state's fastest time in the 100 freestyle (54.09) and Class B's fastest in the 100 breast stroke (1:08.44), although both performances came at the Southwesterns.

Her times are ranked among the state's top 10 in all eight individual swimming events. In six of them, she ranks among the top three swimmers.

"The versatility surprised me," Hale said. "I didn't know she could be as good in all four strokes. She's a very quiet kid but she didn't want to shy away from any swimmers this year. I'd be doing the lineup and say, 'Well, so-and-so might be there.' She'd say, 'I don't care. I just want to race.' "

Easterling, who had a hand in eight school and three pool records this winter, is our choice for MVP of girls swimming.

Born in Louisiana, Easterling moved to Maine at age 6. She is one minute older than her fraternal twin sister, Sidney, who also swims for Greely.

Sarah took to the competitive waters first, when she was 8. A few years later, Sidney followed.

"I just always loved the water," Easterling said. "I loved going to the beach and I loved people's pools."

Her parents noticed and suggested she try club swimming.

"I fell in love with it," she said.

The Easterling girls also played soccer and softball, but by the time Sarah was 12, she had forsaken them for swimming. She started with Seacoast Swim Club in Cumberland before switching to the Westbrook Seals, her current club.

"You have to be in the water constantly to keep yourself physically fit and keep your endurance going," she said.

Before Easterling started swimming year-round, she found she would lose her feel for the water when she returned from a break. It took longer than she liked to regain her feel.

This fall, she had a decision facing most talented swimmers in Maine -- to focus on her club team and get more individual attention, at the expense of giving up the team and social aspects of high school swimming.

She chose her school. She seems to like the feel of it.

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


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