CAPE ELIZABETH — High above Lane 1 at the Donald Richards Pool hangs a maroon banner faded from chlorine-infused air. Affixed to the banner is a series of two-digit numbers, each representing a state championship year for the Cape Elizabeth girls swim team.

There are 16 such banner seasons, including four years between 1973 and 1978 before the state began dividing schools into two classifications, A and B. The Capers won their subsequent dozen state titles in Class A, despite a school enrollment than would have qualified them for Class B.

A decision by school officials last spring ended the practice of applying up in several sports, so Cape Elizabeth, the reigning Class A state champion with a roster of 53 girls, will drop down to Class B for the state meet.

“I’m kind of disappointed about it,” said junior Sadie Stiles, who swam breast stroke on a 200-yard medley relay that set a state record of 1:50.17 last winter. “We seem to have more competition in Class A. … The hope is that we’re going to win Class B and Class A back to back.”

Indeed, only Westbrook and Scarborough have won girls swimming titles in each class, and both won in B before moving up. Including the pre-classification years, Bangor with 19 and Cape Elizabeth with 16 have collected the most Class A trophies. The rest of the state has shared a collective seven.

“Just bumping down to Class B doesn’t make the swimming slower,” said senior Sydney Wight, another member of the record-setting medley relay who also finished second in both the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly last February in the Class A meet, which Cape Elizabeth won by 13.5 points over Brunswick. “There are faster girls, like Colby Harvey (of Waynflete) and Leila Johnston (of Mt. Desert Island). So we’ll have a very hard (state) meet but it will be fun and interesting. I think the only advantage of going down to Class B is that we’re triple the size of some teams.”

MDI and Greely have alternated as Class B champs the past four years. The Trojans have a roster of 33 and the Rangers 40.

Cape Elizabeth has so many swimmers that Coach Ben Raymond broke his team into three groups after finding two – varsity and JV – unmanageable. He added a morning practice (6:30 to 7:30) and split an afternoon session. Each group – White, Black and Maroon – rotates through the morning session except on Mondays, when everyone goes in the afternoon.

“We divided it by age and ability, but some of it is accommodating kids’ schedules,” Raymond said. “We have kids who do everything: mock trial, speech and debate, student council, math team. We had kids at a science meet (Tuesday afternoon) so they came to the morning practice. With three practice times, I can get kids in the pool almost no matter what their other commitments are in the afternoon, which is really nice.”

Of the 87 boys and girls in the program, a handful swim year-round for a club team. Raymond said most of his swimmers play multiple sports.

“At some point, yeah, kids have to choose what they’re going to do,” Raymond said, “but it’s nice to give them the opportunity to do both if they can squeeze it in.”

Senior Caroline Herriman, a year-round swimmer and third member of the record-setting medley relay, said the size of the roster and splintered practice times mean more effort will be needed to remain cohesive.

“The seniors are really trying to make it as inclusive as possible, because we do have a lot of underclassmen,” she said.

Dinners, bowling, sleepovers and dress-up days are all in the works, Herriman said.

“That’s what makes high school different than club,” Stiles said. “You feel like more of a team.”

Seniors Shannon Howard, Katie Schonewolf and Jane Vaughan all contributed individual points to last year’s team title, as did juniors Sarah Loring, Sierra Bates, Arden Wing and Michaela Pinette, and sophomores Gabby Lawrence and Lexi Bakke. Rose Baillie is the fastest of the freshmen.

“We probably had the most kids swimming at night out of any other team,” said Raymond, referring to those who emerged from morning qualifying heats. “If we can do that again this year, we’ll be in a good spot.”

Funny thing about that state championship banner. It only adds numbers, not letters.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

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