As a freshman at Deering High, Owen McLaughlin qualified for the Class A boys’ swimming and diving state championship meet in two events.

He scored, in his words, “one measly point,” that being a 16th-place finish in the 100-yard butterfly. In his other event, the 50 freestyle, McLaughlin finished 19th.

Two years later, McLaughlin is a junior and one of the state’s most dominant swimmers. His times rank among the top four in Class A in six individual events and he broke a 16-year-old school record in the 100 freestyle set by Barrett Roberts, with a time of 48.37 seconds.

“He hasn’t grown physically a ton,” said Deering Coach Sarah Rubin. “He’s a good kid who has just worked his behind off to be one of the best. He has a big future in swimming and it’s been so exciting to watch him.”

Q: Have you been swimming for a long time?

A: Since I was 9, but I didn’t really get competitive until after the high school season of my freshman year.

Q: What happened?

A: I was never a particularly great swimmer. I was kind of on the bottom half of it, but when I came here (to Riverton Pool, where Deering trains) and started getting some consistency, and practicing every day, I started to pick it up and began to realize, ‘Hey, I’m not too bad at this.’

Then I made a switch to a club team (Southern Maine Aquatics) from my old YMCA team and my coach there instantly noticed a lot of issues I had, some flaws, and picked up on them. With some hard work, it started to come together. I stuck with it and it’s been going really well.

Q: What is the appeal of swimming?

A: It’s such a unique sport. The reason I really like it is – being someone who was never a great athlete or anything – that having a sport where you can show up everyday and there’s all these little things you can work on, you can outwork someone who might be considered gifted and talented. That’s what I like the most about it.

Q: As a sophomore you placed second in Class A in the 200 individual medley and sixth in the 100 butterfly. Was that your big breakthrough?

A: I was better last year, but it wasn’t until this October, at the beginning of (the club swim season) that I had a huge breakout meet. Then at the Bowdoin Open (in December) I got top point-scorer (out of 105 boys). That was a really big deal because that’s not just Maine kids. They were from around New England.

Q: Did you do other sports growing up?

A: Yes. I did football, soccer, baseball, track, even a little bit of basketball when I was really young. Swimming was always more like a hobby.

Q: Were you still playing other sports in junior high?

A: Yeah, I didn’t isolate swimming as my one sport until freshman year. I wanted to play football, but my parents said I couldn’t because I had broken my arm the year before playing football.

Q: Do you have a favorite stroke?

A: That’s a tough one. I think butterfly is my favorite stroke. It’s probably my best stroke, and it’s also fun to watch, and a lot of people struggle with that stroke, too.

Q: You recently went head-to-head with Cheverus sophomore Brim Peabody, the defending state champion in the 200 and 500 freestyle, in two events at a dual meet. You won the 200 free by two-tenths and he won the 100 breast by eight-tenths. How did that come about?

A: We’re pretty good friends. I texted him and basically said why don’t we pick some things? We’re on even ground. So we did the 200 free. We’re pretty equally matched in that. I had him in the first 50 (of the 100 breast) but I didn’t have enough to come back. That was really fun.

Q: You’re working toward a Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) certification at Deering. What’s involved with that?

A: Over the past two summers, I’ve gotten 30 hours of STEM (labs) done. Dissecting animals. Constructing drones. It was fun. You have to do a senior science-related capstone. I may not be the perfect student, but I take AP honors classes and do some pretty hard work.

Q: Do you plan to swim in college?

A: Yes, a hundred percent. I would like to go D-1 but I’m definitely going to check other colleges and if I find something that’s the right fit, that’s where I’m going.

Q: Any idea of a major field of study?

A: I have no clue what I’ll do for undergraduate, but I know I want to go to business school once I’m done. My club coach told me I should do business because I’m good at manipulating people. She said I’d be really good in sales.

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPHtxt


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