Lewiston’s Caleb Suli swims during a race this season. Suli has been selected as the Sun Journal’s All-Region Boys Swimmer of the Year. Submitted photo

Lewiston swimming coach Troy Boutin had a decision to make at the Kennebec Valley Athletic championships: whether or not Caleb Suli should compete in the 200-yard freestyle.

Suli hadn’t been hitting his 1-minute, 59-second mark from the 2018-19 season this year, but Boutin decided to put him in the race.

The move paid off. Suli finished second, finishing in 1:54.84, which shattered his time of 2:06.60 at the Lewiston-Edward Little meet a few weeks earlier.

“I was kind of concerned because this whole year, I haven’t been doing that well in the 200 freestyle,” Suli said. “Last year, toward the end of the year, I pulled a 1:59 and I kind of expected (this season) to go 1:53 or 1:51. I was kind of worried because I wanted to place in the top eight and I was kind of worried I wasn’t going to do that.”

Suli also had a third-place finish in the 100-yard backstroke, with a time of 1:02.18, finishing right behind teammate Elijah Escobar, who finished second in the event. Suli also helped Lewiston to a second-place finishes the 200-yard medley relay and the 200-yard freestyle relay.

Suli’s postseason success, he also had a top-3 finish at the state meet, makes him the 2019-20 Sun Journal All-Region Boys Swimmer of the Year.

Suli said he found his groove for the KVAC meet, potentially spurred by some friendly banter from freshman teammate Alex Akers.

“He kind of pushed me a little, me and him were going back-and-forth and he goes, ’Are you going to let a freshman beat you?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know about that,’” Suli said. “So I was really in the zone at that meet. I just wanted to do the best that I could and treat that race if it was my last.”

Boutin said that Suli’s discipline and dedication in practices didn’t waver despite a regular season that might have been discouraging at times.

“He’s a very disciplined swimmer, he doesn’t fool around in practice, he pushes himself very hard,” Boutin said. “He’s probably one of my top performing swimmers at practice. He’s always willing to beat the time intervals I set, pushing himself to not only complete the swims, but to really work on his stroke. I think that discipline at the end of the year, allowed him with a small taper to drop his times.

Suli continued to drop his times at the Class A state meet, where he finished third in the 200-yard freestyle (1:52.62).He said that heading into the state meet he studied the other swimmers’ times.

“My focus was at the ultimate high at Class A states,” Suli said. “I was aware and alert at all times, and I studied the heat sheet before so I had to make sure what swimmer would do what, what swimmers would drop or a second or two.”

Suli knew Ethan Schultz and Gavin McLeod, both of Scarborough, would likely finish first and second. That made competition would be Kennebunk’s Zach Matthews, who he knew from a Bates College camp, his top competition. Suli beat Matthews by three-one hundredths of a second.

Suli also had a 10th-place finish in the 100-yard backstroke (1:01.09), again finishing right behind Escobar.

Suli is a second-and-a-half from breaking the Lewiston’s school record in the 200-yard freestyle and is also close to the 100-yard freestyle record.

“I am going to try to break the 200-yard free early in the year because that’s how I want to do it,” Suli said. “Then we will see about the 100 free, and see when I can break that one.”

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