CAPE ELIZABETH – With 21 state championships between its boys and girls teams, Cape Elizabeth is one of, if not the most, decorated and distinguished teams in the world of Maine state high school swimming.

And even though it’s still early, this year appears to be no different.

The Capers, third in both the boys and girls events at states last season, swept Westbrook in a Southwestern Maine Activities Association duel meet last Friday at Richards Pool in Cape Elizabeth. Cape won eight of the 11 boys events to win the team competition 109-51, while the Cape girls won all 11 events for a 124-28 victory.

Sydney Wight (200-yard freestyle), Charlotte Sawyer (200 IM), Sarah Loring (50 free), Katie Schonewolf (100 butterfly), Caroline Herriman (100 free), Gabby Lawrence (500 free), Hannah Homans (100 backstroke) and Sadie Stiles (100 breaststroke) were the individual winners on the girls side for the Capers, while Alex Mukai (200 free), Ian Riddell (50 free), Jordan Petersen (100 fly), Griffin Thoreck (100 free) and Evan Long (100 back) were the individual winners for the Cape boys. Both teams also won all three relays.

Cape Elizabeth head coach Ben Raymond said he was happy with the result, which was expected considering that with 86 athletes Cape has about 60 more swimmers than the Blue Blazes this year. But the most important part of the meet, and all regular season meets, he said, was getting his kids qualified for February’s state showdown.

“We had a lot of kids swim well, we had a lot of kids qualify and that’s what we’re trying to do in these dual meets is just get kids to qualify,” Raymond said. “We look at our duel meets as a chance to see where we are in our training. The score is whatever the score is, we don’t really care too much about that. Yeah, it’s good to get in and compete with someone else, that’s really not the most important thing.

“It’s just giving kids the opportunities to swim, qualify for the state meet and improve their times.”

Raymond said he expected both of his teams to be in contention at the state meet once again, especially the girls squad, which lost fewer points to graduation and return Homans, Herriman and Stiles, all scorers at states last February who each swam in just one individual race on Friday, as well as Wight, the winner of the 50 free and 100 butterfly at last year’s Southwesterns meet.

The key to another top finish at states, Raymond said, is developing some depth behind them.

“We have a lot of top girls, so if we can get that middle group of girls to improve a little bit then I think we’re really going to be on to something in the state meet, because we have the girls on top who are going to score points,” Raymond said. “If we can add those supporting members then we’re going to do really well.

“We already have about 20 girls qualified already, which is really good. Now we’ve got to get them from that just-qualified time to that how-you’re-going-to-score-points time.”

On the other side, Greg Violette was the top swimmer for the Blue Blazes, winning both the 200 individual medley and running away with the 500-yard freestyle in a time of 5:12.47, nearly 49 seconds faster than second-place Jacob Brady of Cape.

Violette will also be a contender this year in the 100 backstroke, an event he was fourth in at states last winter, and Westbrook head coach Dana Barrows said it has been exciting to see Violette, just a sophomore, progress in the pool.

“He’s really improved and dropped a lot of time,” Barrows said. “It’s going to be nice to see him blossom over the years, being only a sophomore.”

Darren Brown was the Blue Blazes’ other individual winner, coming from behind in the last lap to win the 100 breaststroke in 1:22.94, just .27 ahead of Cape Elizabeth’s Stephen Bennett. On the girls side, the Blazes also got second-place finishes out of Megan Zabenko (200 IM) and Kari Brown (200 breast).

While Westbrook is yet to win a dual meet this season, Barrows, like Raymond, said the final scores in the regular season meets weren’t all that important in the larger scope of things as he continues to develop his younger and smaller squad.

“Right now I’m just trying to make sure they get a good base under them as far as workouts go,” Barrows said. “I’m pleasantly surprised with as many qualifications that I’ve got right off the bat, especially from younger swimmers. It gives them more variety at the end of the year as to what to swim at states, and really the ultimate goal is to try to get all these kids to qualify. We don’t really go after the duel meets, I’m just trying to get as many kids as I can qualified.

“It’s been a good year so far, I think we’ll see a lot of progress towards the end. That’s what’s fun with this sort of team, you’re going to see a lot of progress at the end and those big drop-offs in time.”

The two squads were scheduled continue their regular seasons last weekend, after the paper’s early holiday deadline, as Cape Elizabeth headed to the South Portland municipal pool on Friday, while Westbrook headed to the Casco Bay YMCA in Freeport on Saturday to take on Yarmouth.

The Capers and Blazes will then each compete in five more regular season meets in January and February before heading to the Northern Southwesterns meet on Feb. 8 and 9, where they’ll compete against Cheverus, Deering, Falmouth, Greely, McAuley, Portland, Scarborough and South Portland, as well as each other. The state meet will then be held on Feb. 18 (boys) and Feb. 19 (girls) at Bowdoin College.

Cape Elizabeth’s Sadie Stiles swims in the 100-yard breaststroke in a meet against Westbrook on Friday. Stiles, 13th in the event at the state meet last February, won the race in a time of 1:13.55 as the Caper girls won all the events on the way to a 124-28 win. 
Westbrook’s Greg Violette swims in the 500-yard freestyle in a meet against Cape Elizabeth on Friday. Violette won the race in a time of 5:12.87.
Westbrook’s Darren Brown swims in the 100-yard breaststroke in a meet against Cape Elizabeth on Friday. Brown won the race in a time of 1:22.94.
Cape Elizabeth’s Evan Long swims the breaststroke leg for the Capers “A” team in the 200-yard medley relay in a meet against Westbrook on Friday. The Cape “A” team won the race in a time of 1:51.17.
Westbrook’s Kevin Bois swims in the 200-yard freestyle in a meet against Cape Elizabeth on Friday. Bois was second in the race in a time of 1:11.98.
Westbrook’s Josh Minor swims in the 100-yard butterfly in a meet against Cape Elizabeth on Friday. Minor finished third in the race in a time of 135.18.
Cape Elizabeth’s Caroline Herriman swims in the 100-yard freestyle relay in a meet against Westbrook on Friday. Herriman, 12th in the event at the state meet last February, won the race in a time of 59.73.
Westbrook’s Megan Zabenko swims in the 500-yard freestyle in a meet against Cape Elizabeth on Friday. Zabenko finished third in the race in a time of 6:47.65.

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