BIDDEFORD — Marshall Lowery, a senior at Kennebunk High, looked across a University of New England pool filled with six lanes of swimmers. There, mounted on the far wall, was a list of names representing the pool record-holders for various events and distances.

All of the names, with the exception of one, belonged to collegiate swimmers.

All but hers.

When Lowery was a sophomore, Kennebunk swam one meet at UNE. She won the 100-yard backstroke in 1 minute, 2.05 seconds. It was faster than any college backstroker has managed at the same pool.

“I was so proud to have my name up with a bunch of college swimmers,” Lowery said this week during a Rams practice. “And it definitely motivated me, being able to see that time up there every practice.”

Lowery and the rest of the resurgent Rams have their sights set higher this season. Coming off a surprising third-place finish in the Class A state meet last February (one point ahead of 17-time champion Bangor) and a South Southwesterns title (their first since winning back-to-back in 2006-07), the Rams have been reclassified into Class B for swimming and diving.


They will now face the likes of Greely, Cape Elizabeth and Mt. Desert Island in their quest for the first state title in school history.

“We’re certainly hoping to be in the conversation when February rolls around,” said second-year coach Andrew Coulombe. “(Those teams) are very talented, always strong programs that are very well-coached. If we can be in that conversation, that would be a huge step for the program.”

Kennebunk finished 11th in Class A in 2013 and fifth in 2014 before climbing to third last February, when Lowery won the 200 individual medley by three seconds and set a meet record of 57.12 seconds in the 100 backstroke.

Not bad for a swimmer who didn’t learn a flip turn until midway through her freshman year.

“I started club swimming when I was 10 and got more into it at 11,” Lowery said. “But I wasn’t really competitive in any way until my freshman year of high school.”

Lowery is one of the 13 Kennebunk girls – more than half the roster of two dozen – who also swims for the Northern York County YMCA Manta Rays. Fellow senior captain Fiona Harms and her younger sister, sophomore Isabel Harms, are also club swimmers for the Westbrook Seals.


Senior Tristan Sandoval and junior Renee Nichols are also captains. The team has 11 sophomores.

“We’ve become more of a family as the years have gone by,” Fiona Harms said of the program’s supportive atmosphere. At Friday’s opening meet against Waynflete, “we had no kids (competing) without someone cheering for them at the end of the pool.”

“That’s something that’s really changed throughout my four years,” Lowery said. “As captains last year, Olivia Hammer-Grant (since graduated) and I really focused on trying to create that fun and supportive environment that we didn’t have as much in the few years before. Even if you’re finishing last in your heat, you’re getting the same amount of people cheering for you as the person who’s breaking records.”

Of course, there’s more than shout-outs during meets. There’s singing on the bus and braiding each other’s hair, and encouraging teammates through practice sets.

“I think that’s fostered a great dynamic for our team,” said Lowery, who also has won All-State honors as a jazz singer. “It’s made people want to work harder. It’s made people want to come to practice. It’s made people want to do well in meets.”

Lowery, Nichols (fourth in 100 breast), Harms (seventh in IM and 100 breast) and sophomore diver Emma Patterson (third) all posted top-eight individual performances at the state meet. Sophomores Britta Brown, Sydney Macedo and Olivia McLean joined Nichols, Harms and Lowery on relays.


That taste of success is making the Rams hungry for more.

“They come to practice every day with that spark and that attitude that you want as a coach,” Coulombe said. “They truly love swimming. They don’t scoff at hard work. They love being together.”

And that record board at UNE? It’s going to need an update.

Kennebunk competes once a year there (because the pool has no diving board) and on Friday night against Waynflete, Lowery lowered her 100 backstroke mark to 1:00.40, and set a 50 back record with a 28.69 clocking on the opening leg of Kennebunk’s 200 medley relay.


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