PROVIDENCE — Out with the “old,” in with the new.
For Cumberland High senior co-captain Courtney Kent, she couldn't have fathomed a better way to close her interscholastic career at the R.I. Girls Swimming Championships, held Saturday afternoon at the recently-finished Brown University natatorium.
Really, who would argue with two individual crowns, not to mention a relay title and a runner-up in another?
And Lincoln High freshman Mollie Westrick fulfilled a dream she first set for herself as a child competing for the Boys & Girls Club of Cumberland-Lincoln Penguins youth team. Like her elder counterpart, she snagged a pair of individual crowns.
Kent left this “Aquatic Cathedral” – the descendant of the legendary, long-ago torn-down Smith Swimming Center – with her sixth and seventh career individual gold medals at these state championships.
She crushed the field in the 200-yard freestyle (1:54.33) and 500-yard freestyle (4:59.29)' in both, she broke her own school records by a combined 1.26 seconds.
The amiable Clipper also registered a PR of 28.82 while swimming the backstroke leg of the 200 medley relay, which – with the help of freshman Kayleigh Canavan and fellow seniors Kate LeBeau and Kayla Zerva – sailed to the title in another CHS mark of 1:53.92.
Then there was Kent opening the 200 freestyle relay with a lifetime-best 50-yard split of 25.58. That aided teammates Canavan, Zerva and junior Kenzie McCormick to a runner-up finish and another school-record shatter of 1:43.38.
In the process, Kent either accounted for or helped accumulate an astonishing 114 of the Clippers' 204 points, good for sixth overall.
South Kingstown cruised to the team crown with 310 points, and rival North Kingstown placed a distant second with 225, while head coach Sandy Gorham's Barrington squad mustered third (217), a mere point ahead of La Salle. Prout took fifth with 207.
As for the Lions, “Super Frosh” Westrick looked calm and collected as she gleaned titles in the 100 butterfly (59.54) and the 100 backstroke (58.05), both in lifetime-best clockings. Those performances lifted Lincoln to eighth with 104 points, just four shy of seventh-place Bay View.
When asked if she could have scripted a better finish to her interscholastic career, Kent just grinned, “No, I don't think so! Just the way my team swam in the relays, how well they did, that was icing on the cake. I wasn't nervous coming in, but more excited. I wanted to swim my best times, and I did, so for that, I'm very thankful, but my teammates swam great.
“In the 200 medley (relay), we won it by about a second over North Kingstown, and we dropped three seconds from our time (at the Division I meet) a couple of weeks ago,” which was 1:56.23, she added. “We also broke our school record, and I just knew it was going to happen beforehand. Our girls are fearless; we don't let anything bother us. We handle pressure well.”
Call that an understatement, as Kent has been successful for years now. With her win in the 200 freestyle, she captured her third straight Ocean State title, and – in the 500 – her fourth. She's one of only a few Rhode Islanders ever to sweep a single event, and almost guaranteed herself ownership of those CHS individual and relay marks for decades to come.
“This is the reason I swim (in) high school,” as opposed to strictly the USA Swimming, Inc.-affiliated club Crimson Aquatics of Whitinsville,” she said. “I can't wait for college (she signed a national letter-of-intent to represent the University of Vermont on scholarship come late summer) because you swim for a team.
“I love swimming for Cumberland High,” she continued. “When you swim for a club, you're pretty much swimming for yourself. With a school, you're competing for others. It's just more fun.”
As for Westrick, she attended the state meet last February as an eighth-grader, and admittedly got caught up in the atmosphere while cheering on pals.
“I've been looking forward to my first state meet for a long time,” she laughed after making her wins in the “fly” and “back” look elementary. “I went to (the University of Rhode Island's Tootell Natatorium) with a friend, and we had a blast! I saw all of my friends swimming, the upperclassmen to me, and they were doing well. I kept thinking, 'This is so much fun!'
“I really couldn't wait for this,” she continued, “and I don't think it's sunk in yet. Right now I'm thinking I'll wake up (Sunday) and say, 'Did I dream that? Was that real?'”
Yes, Mollie, you're a two-time state champion at age 15.
After combining with teammates Kaelyn Zak, Nicole Moneghan and Yelizavetta Korotrova in the championship-opening 200 medley relay, one in which Westrick posted a 50 backstroke split of 27.73, she took the blocks for her butterfly specialty; 100 yards later, she had outstroked runner-up Ivana Andrews of La Salle by exactly 1.88 ticks; and third-place freshman Allison Dunkie by 2.00.
In the backstroke, the Lioness had entered with a PR of 59.15, but hydroplaned into the wall 1.1 seconds quicker. She also defeated Andrews by 2.25 ticks.
“I'm just surprised she won (the butterfly) by that much,” Lincoln head coach Tom DiIorio grinned afterward. “I've been coaching Mollie since she was this high (lowering his hand to about three feet, six inches) as an eight-and-under, but she's always had that killer instinct.
“She used to come up to me before the (Rhode Island/Massachusetts Youth Swim League) championships, whether she was (in the) eight-and-under, 9-10 or 11-12 (age groups), and say, 'I'm going to beat those girls.'
“I'd just tell her, 'Mollie, they're four or five seconds faster,' but she'd tell me, 'I don't care. I'm going to do it!'” he added. “Guess what? She did. She's extremely talented, but she works very, very hard. She's also just built to swim. She's built to power her way through the water.”
Outside of Kent, Cumberland had a number of other stellar outings, and – had one unfortunate occurrence not taken place – it may have finished third or fourth in the team standings.
After junior Kenzie McCormick took sixth in the 200 freestyle (PR of 2:03.65), meet officials disqualified her during the 100 butterfly for a “rolling” (or illegal) start. In that race, she had manufactured a personal-best 1:01-plus, which would've eclipsed her previous mark by over 1.25 ticks.
McCormick's time may not have bettered the third-place time of 1:01.54, mustered by Dunkie, but it would have overtaken Warwick Vets' Katie Evans' 1:02.75 clocking, one that scored 15 points for the Hurricanes.
Long-time Clippers' head coach Heidi Josephson was visibly upset by the call, one that may have been overruled due to the fact McCormick had moved slightly backward before the start. Still, there was good news pending: In the second-place 200 freestyle relay, the undaunted McCormick achieved a lifetime-best split of 26.16.
She also anchored the eighth-place 400 freestyle relay with a PR 100 split of 56.86.
“That was awesome!” Josephson exclaimed to McCormick after the last event on the program, the comment finally eliciting a broad smile. “Kenzie really had a great day of swimming. Even with the DQ, she did her best time in the fly. That has to be recognized.”
So do these: Canavan rolled to sixth in the 100 breaststroke (1:11.67) and eighth in the 200 individual medley (2:23.36), and Zerva took sixth in the 50 freestyle (25.93) and 15th in the 100 backstroke (1:06.44). LeBeau added an eighth in the 100 butterfly (1:07.75), and teammate Jillian McCann 15th in the same race.
North Smithfield's Cassaundra Trudel assembled a premier performance, collecting a second in the 50 freestyle (24.65, just .49 behind the Rebels' champion Jackie Karpowicz) and third in the 100 freestyle (54.72).
St. Raphael Academy standout Carol Santos easily won her heat in the 100 fly in 1:06.90 (5.22 seconds quicker than her seed), and placed ninth.
As for her squad's overall success in the water, Josephson just sighed.
“I can't believe it; the girls were outstanding, and they deserve a ton of credit,” she noted. “They all swam their personal bests, from top to bottom. They were all so focused. After the blizzard hit, we couldn't practice (due to mandatory Interscholastic League rules barring workouts on 'Snow Days'), but they overcame all of that. I couldn't be more proud.”
R.I. GIRLS SWIMMING CHAMPIONSHIPS
At Brown University
Team standings – 1. South Kingstown 310; 2. North Kingstown 225; 3. Barrington 217; 4. La Salle 216; 5. Prout 207; 6. Cumberland 204; 7. Bay View 112; 8. Lincoln 108; 9. Narragansett 104; 10. Smithfield 78; 11. Westerly 71; 12. Mount St. Charles 47; 13. Rogers 46; 14. East Greenwich 40; 15. Toll Gate 30; 16. Warwick Vets 20; 17. (tie) Cranston East, Middletown 12; 19. Portsmouth 8; 20. (tie) Classical, Pilgrim 6.
200y medley relay – 1. Cumberland (Courtney Kent, Kayleigh Canavan, Kate LeBeau, Kayla Zerva) 1:53.92; 8. Lincoln (Mollie Westrick, Kaelyn Zak, Nicole Moneghan, Yelizavetta Korotrova) 2:01.99; 11. Mount St. Charles (Kelly O'Neill, Amy Quistberg, Liz Gross, Stephanie Morelle) 2:06.98.
200y freestyle – 1. Courtney Kent (CUMB) 1:54.33; 6. Kenzie McCormick (CUMB) 2:03.65; 12. Nicole Moneghan (LINC) 2:07.14.
200y individual medley – 8. Kayleigh Canavan (CUMB) 2:23.36; 11. Liz Gross (MSC) 2:25.39.
50y freestyle – 2. Cassaundra Trudel (NS) 24.65; 6. Kayla Zerva (CUMB) 25.93; 13. Stephanie Morelle (MSC) 26.76.
100y butterfly – 1. Mollie Westrick (LINC) 59.54; 8. Kate LeBeau (CUMB) 1:07.75; 9. Coral Santos (SRA) 1:06.90; 15. Jillian McCann (CUMB) 1:11.14.
100y freestyle – 3. Cassaundra Trudel (NS) 54.72.
500y freestyle – 1. Courtney Kent (CUMB) 4:59.29; 9. Nicole Moneghan (LINC) 5:43.82; 10. Liz Gross (MSC) 5:44.50.
200y freestyle relay – 2. Cumberland (Courtney Kent, Kenzie McCormick, Kayleigh Canavan, Kayla Zerva) 1:43.48; 12. Mount St. Charles (Amy Quistberg, Erin MacNeil, Jillian Barnabe, Stephanie Morelle) 1:57.95; 13. Lincoln (Malissa Gianetti, Sarah Gianetti, Rebecca Wang, Laura Smolenski) 1:59.05.
100y backstroke – 1. Mollie Westrick (LINC) 58.05; 15. Kayla Zerva (CUMB) 1:06.44.
100y breaststroke – 6. Kayleigh Canavan (CUMB) 1:11.67; 14. Jill Chopy (CUMB) 1:17.61.
400y freestyle relay – 7. Lincoln (Emily Jacobson, Danille Jorge, Nicole Moneghan, Mollie Westrick) 4:02.61; 8. Cumberland (Kate LeBeau, Jillian McCann, Jillian Chopy, Kenzie McCormick) 4:05.08; 13. Mount St. Charles (Katie Yorke, Erin MacNeil, Kelly O'Neill, Liz Gross) 4:17.53.