Emma Hawley, Brooke Cloutier, Melina Masselli and Taylor Belanger, swimming the 200-yard medley relay for Lewiston High School beat a 36 year team record. (Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn)

LEWISTON — A moment of truth that felt like an eternity came right after the fastest 200-yard medley relay a Lewiston High School girls’ swim team has ever produced.

“It felt so long,” agreed all four of the Blue Devils’ medley quartet, who broke what was a 36-year-old record — the longest-held record for boys or girls in the program’s record book.

Following freshman Emma Hawley’s backstroke, senior Brooke Cloutier’s breaststroke and junior Melina Masselli’s butterfly, freshman Taylor Belanger had the task of swimming the 50-yard freestyle leg fast enough to break the record of 2:00.5 that was set in 1983 by Sharon Taylor, Beth Harris, Michele Ledoux and Julie Beauparlant.

Belanger said the pressure motivated her, which it did Tuesday night during an away meet against Mt. Ararat at Bowdoin College’s LeRoy Greason Pool in Brunswick.

“When I feel like something’s like relying on me, I feel like that’s what makes me go faster,” Belanger said. “And plus, we were at the Bowdoin pool, which I feel like I always swim faster at. So I think that’s, overall, well part of the reason why we might have gone faster.”

Belanger touched the edge of the pool to complete the four-swimmer relay, and although she was the last to get a chance to look up at the scoring board, she was able to wait in unison as the quartet and everyone else in the pool room watched to see what time popped up.

“I think the anticipation was, like when I hit, and it doesn’t take so long, but it takes a while,” Belanger said. “Like when you’re waiting to look up, and then you see it, and then you’re just so excited.”

The new record time of 1:59.85 flashed on the screen, and though the crowd may have been smaller than usual, according to Lewiston coach Troy Boutin (it was a weeknight meet, on the road, during a storm, after all), the elation was nonetheless worthy of a record-finally-broken.

“The parents that attended knew what was at stake, so there was a lot of cheering from a dozen parents to kind of encourage the girls on,” Boutin said. “And what was really nice was there were a number of people aware of the fact that they’d broken that record after they swam the race, so they got that feedback, too.”

The relay team was newly-made this year, with the addition of freshmen Belanger and Hawley. But the foundation began being built years ago, when the four swimmers all started competing for the Twin Cities Swim Team together.

Then as soon as last season ended, the attention was turned to this year, and to the possibilities of a record-breaking relay coming together.

“I think that Brooke and Melina set the goal for themselves at the end of last season, knowing that we get two new freshmen this year — Emma Hawley and Taylor Belanger — that would really help them to go after the time,” Boutin said.

Belanger and Hawley also added themselves to that conversation with their soon-to-be Lewiston High School teammates.

“I remember at the end of eighth grade, when we had first really started talking about it, and (Brooke and Melina) were like ‘Hey, I can’t wait for you guys to come up because we can get this record,’” Hawley said. “We were kind of — well me, personally, I was kind of nervous because there were a lot of other people that could have done it. And then the first practice, Coach is like ‘Are there any events that you really want to swim?’ And then we started talking about the relay, and then he started making plans for us to train for it and stuff, and I’m just really glad we got the experience.”

Masselli said she started to ponder the chances back when she was in middle school, going to high school meets and looking at an obtainable time on the record board.

“It was a question of when, not if, for us,” Cloutier said.

The record was nearly broken earlier in the season, but the team came up just short by 0.25 seconds.

“We knew in that moment, that we were going to get it as soon as we got to Bowdoin, because Bowdoin’s an amazing pool to swim in,” Masselli said.

“We’ve been so close,” Cloutier said. “Every single meet of this season we were  right on that edge, and we just needed a night where everyone was on our A-game, and that just happened to be Tuesday.”

The quartet used the motivation of coming up just shy to work harder and get better. Practicing with both the Lewiston and Twin Cities teams most nights, the girls used every session as a chance to perfect their techniques and shave off any time they could.

They weren’t lacking for confidence going into Tuesday night’s meet. A group chat between the four of them was filled with words of encouragement to one another.

“Tuesday night it was really exciting because we were all hyping each other up in the group chat,” Masselli said. “We’re like ‘Guys, we’re going to get that record tonight. Like, we’re going for it.’”

They just had to do it.

“I was kind of watching people’s splits, and kind of doing the math in my head,” Cloutier said. “And I knew once Taylor jumped into the water for that last leg I knew we were going to get it, because I trusted Taylor. I knew she was going to get a fast time, and we were going to break that record right then and there.”

“So basically Taylor, the last time we got really close to the record … she went a 26 (second split). And as soon as I saw that, like she can hold her own at the end of the relay, and I knew whatever she had to do to get that for us, she would do it.”

That the new time brought the record below the two-minute threshold was just icing on the cake.

“We were expecting to get, like, two minutes, maybe .16, you know?” Hawley said. “But once we saw that it was like (1:55), and Taylor was just before the flags, we were like ‘Oh my gosh, we’re going under two.’ And Taylor hit, and we looked up, and it was like a 1:59, and we’re like ‘Oh my gosh, we got it! I can’t believe it!’”

It was “the perfect storm” that allowed the girls to be the ones that broke the record,” according to Masselli.

“It’s hard to get four individual swimmers that all excel at one stroke together, and to work as a team,” she said. “That’s why it hasn’t been broken in so long. You need a perfect pair.”

Now the girls just want to keep lowering their time, and maybe move up the state rankings, where they’re currently seeded third.

“There’s always things that we can work on. Personally, my backstroke could get better,” Hawley said. “Everybody can do their part, and everybody can get a whole lot better, and we can just really try for anything.”

“I think our main goal with the relay is just to keep breaking that record,” Masselli said. “Getting it as low as we can so hopefully no one will be able to touch it for a long time again.”

“Another 36 years. Forty,” Cloutier added. “We’ll see.”

Boutin is hoping to hear from the former record-holders, and to give them the record placard that will soon be taken down to make room for a new one to signify Belanger, Cloutier, Hawley and Masselli’s feat.

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