CUMBERLAND — Heidi Josephson is well aware her Cumberland High squads have little to no chance to compete for state crowns at the R.I. Interscholastic Swimming Championships, slated for the new Brown University natatorium on Saturday at 2 p.m. (for girls) and Sunday at 1 (boys).
That doesn't mean the veteran coach isn't truly excited about what could happen when the starter's gun sounds for the first event.
On the female side, Josephson can't wait to see if Clipper senior captain Courtney Kent is able to manufacture triumphs in her two specialties – the 200- and 500-yard freestyles – come Saturday. Should Kent accomplish that amazing feat, she not only would gain her sixth and seventh individual career state titles, but also defend those two event crowns for the third consecutive year. (Then again, at the 500 distance, it would be the fourth straight winter she snagged the championship).
The 18-year-old aquawoman is seeded first in both races, the shorter distance with a time of 1:54.88 and the longer at 5:00.00, but there's much more at stake.
“Courtney will be trying to break Elizabeth Beisel's state record in the 200, which is in the 1:52-high or 1:53-low range,” Josephson said of Beisel, the former North Kingstown High great and multi-Olympic medalist. “I think she's got as good go at it. She's only a second away, and she's in a pretty good competitive position to give it a try.
“I'm not saying she'll definitely break it; I mean, we're talking about Liz Beisel here,” she added with a laugh. “But she's swimming fast right now, and she's the ultimate competitor.”
On Feb. 3, at the Division I Championships at Roger Williams University, Kent took the 200 freestyle in 1:56.99 and the 500 in 5:06.13. She, however, has registered a lifetime-best clocking of 1:53.8, that achieved while representing her USA Swimming-affilated club team, Crimson Aquatics of Whitinsville.
In the 500, she has swum as fast as 4:55.6, so chasing another Ocean State title is well within her grasp.
“(RIIL officials) haven't sent out the seed sheets yet, so I'm not sure exactly where some of our other girls may stand, but I expect (junior) Kenzie McCormick to do well,” Josephson said. “She finished second behind Courtney in the 200 freestyle (at the Division I meet), and did her best time of 2:04.77. She'll also swim the 100 butterfly, and she was second behind Ivana Andrews of La Salle by just two-hundredths of a second. (Andrews went 1:03.23, McCormick 1:03.25).
Josephson is also hoping for solid top-three or top-six placements from senior Kayla Zerva, who will compete in the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke; and freshman Kayleigh Canavan, who took third at the D-I meet in the 100 breaststroke (PR of 1:12.73) and fourth in the 50 freestyle (26.66);
The coach is also primed to see how two of her three relays will fare. The 200 medley relay foursome of Kent, Canavan, senior Kate LeBeau and Zerva took that championship on Feb. 3 with a time of 1:56.23 (after placing third at the Bay View Invitational way back on Jan. 6).
Likewise, the 200 freestyle relay quartet of Kent, McCormick, Canavan and Zerva finished first at the same D-I event in 1:45.63.
“The medley relay is within a couple of tenths of the school record, which is approximately five years old, and the (200) freestyle relay is pretty close, too,” Josephson said. “The thing I'm not sure about is who may make a run out of Division II (as those squads competed in that meet on Tuesday night at RWU after two blizzard-related postponements). I know South Kingstown has got a tremendous team.
“It should be Prout, North Kingstown, South Kingstown and La Salle (vying for the team championship,” she continued. “I don't think we'll be in the mix because we don't have as much depth as those other schools. We've got some outstanding swimmers, but we don't have the quantity, the big numbers.”
Like Kent, Cumberland senior captain Andrew Bauer also has clinched the top seed in the 200 and 500 freestyles, and – according to Josephson – he has the chance to make a little history himself.
In the former race, he shattered the school record, previously held by mid-1980s phenom Matt Gilson, when he snagged the title at the Read/Watmough Invitational (also at RWU) with a 1:46.41 clocking. He broke it again in a mere dual meet against Smithfield in 1:46.33, and managed 1:46.64 while placing first at the Division I Championship. He also took the 500 freestyle in 4:55.82 (though he has swum as fast as 4:53.51).
That's one reason he decided to register for that event – should he break 4:53.00, he'll set a new CHS mark, one held since the mid-'80s by Mark Bonneteymard.
Still, even more school records could be in the offing for Bauer, and Josephson is anxious to see if their ambitious, though possible, plan will work.
“He's swimming really well right now,” Josephson noted. “We don't know if it will happen, but we stacked both the 200 and 400 freestyle relays, and Andrew will lead off both.”
The logic is really quite simple: Interscholastic League rules recognize times achieved by leadoff relay swimmers as state records because they come from a “dead” start. (The other three do what are considered “rolling” starts, which are deemed about a half-tick faster than “dead”).
The Clippers' boys mark in the 50 freestyle is 21.82, held by the legendary Kurt Langborg since 1977. In the 400 freestyle relay, Bauer must finish the 100 leg faster than 48.10, and that would erase Don Hunt's record, which has stood for about 27 years.
“Andrew has a chance at breaking his own record in the 200 free, and getting those in the 50, 100 and 500,” Josephson stated. “If all those things happen, it would be one crazy, wonderful day. He currently has the top recorded times in the state in the 50 and 100, so it's more than possible. He actually swam the first leg of the 400 free relay in 46.60, so he's more than capable of doing it.”
Andrew won't be the only Bauer who hopes to rake in the points at states. His kid brother, sophomore Jack, will compete in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke. In the former, he took third at the D-I meet in a PR of 56.44, and, the latter, second in another best-ever clocking of 58.35.
“Jack should be seeded in the top three or four in both,” she said. “It's not like it used to be, where there was a wide margin (of speed) between Division I and the other two. Now it's much closer, which ultimately is great for the sport. There are some very talented swim coaches out there, so all the times have become faster.”
Josephson also is anticipating good things for senior Mike Constantino, who will compete in the 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly, his specialty. Constantino placed 11th in the butterfly (1:04.41) and 13th in the IM (2:26.42).
The elder Bauer most probably will swim the 200 freestyle relay with Jack, Constantino and freshman Eric Henderson, though seniors Lucas Rundlett and Matt Redihan also could play roles; the same goes for the 400 relay.
“Without question, Hendricken's the team to beat on the boys' side,” Josephson indicated of the Hawks, who haven't lost a title in at least two decades. “At the Division I meet, Hendricken was first and Smithfield, which is very strong under (head coach) Dave Cote, took second.
“Again, our downfall is going to be not quality, we've got plenty of that, but quantity,” she added. “All of my kids always give it their all. It's remarkable with the boys and the girls how well they've done this season, but we don't have the numbers to be able to compete for a state championship.”
The good news for the Clippers: If all goes well, their standouts will bus home with some hardware.