Edward Little’s Andrew Casares competes in the 200-yard freestyle during the Red Eddies’ portion of the KVAC Class A virtual swim meet last month in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

An atypical offseason didn’t seem to stunt Andrew Casares’ progression in the pool for Edward Little this season.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, there was no club swimming, and a delayed preseason consisted of Zooming on computers and phones rather than in the water.

When Casares got a chance, finally, to race in the pool, he immediately set personal bests. By the end of the season, the sophomore broke a long-standing school record and was a dual KVAC champion. These accomplishments earn Casares the title of Sun Journal All-Region Boys Swimmer of the Year.

“I wasn’t even sure we were going to have a season this year, so once we got in the pool I worked as hard as I could, just trying to be faster,” Casares said.

Edward Little coach Scott Morrison, by design, prepared Casares and the other swimmers to go faster earlier than they would in a normal season.

“Each event that (Andrew) swam at each meet this year was a new personal best time,” Morrison said. “Because our in-the-pool season was cut to just seven weeks, we could not slowly ramp up yardage. I explained to the student-athletes that this would be a very hard season and we were going to start with midseason workouts — hard sets, fast swimming and little rest.

“Andrew thrived in this environment. He dropped five seconds in the 100 free, 15 seconds in 200 free, and 33 seconds in the 500 free. This is extremely impressive given the lack of in the pool training time.”

Casares said seeing those personal records was exciting.

“I never would have guessed I would go the times I did this year,” he said.

He had the potential, and when Morrison saw Casares in person for the first time this season, he noticed physical growth as well.

“He was taller and stronger,” Morrison said.

Casares said he felt stronger in the water, too. That new-found strength combined with what Morrison said makes Casares such a good swimmer — fierce competitiveness, an incredible drive to succeed, good technique, easy coachability and hard work — to keep that swimming growth going throughout the season.

Casares gave credit to hard work, great coaches and great teammates.

“There is a ton of energy on deck, making hard sets and tough nights fun,” Casares said. “I saw my teammates really step it up this year, everyone worked really hard.”

Those teammates helped make virtual meets special, even though they couldn’t see opposing swimmers in person.

“Having a chance to see hard work pay off, even in a virtual meet, is always awesome,” Casares said.

He got a chance to see his own hard work pay off in the virtual KVAC Class A championships. Not only did he win both the 200-yard freestyle and 500-yard freestyle, as well as swimming the opening leg of the winning 400 freestyle relay, but his time in the 500 free broke the Edward Little record held since 1989.

“I was so happy to see Andrew break the school record,” Morrison said. “Edward Little has some pretty impressive swimmers over the years. The majority of the records — five of the eight individual events — on the board are from 1989, and three of those five are held by Lucien Ouellette. Lucien and the team in 1989 was perhaps the best Edward Little boys teams ever. At one time Lucien held four records on the board.”

The Red Eddies placed second at the conference meet, their highest-ever finish at the KVAC Class A championships.

Casares said Morrison talked with him last year about eventually breaking the 500-free record, but both were surprised that it happened while he was a sophomore.

There’s still more Red Eddies records in Casares’ sights. Among them, according to Morrison, are the 200 freestyle and individual medley, the 100 butterfly, and possibly the 100 free. Casares set a new personal-best in the 100 fly in the first meet of the season, then didn’t swim it again so he could focus on other events. Also, at the KVAC championships, his opening leg of the 400 free relay set a new personal-best in the 100 free.

“Andrew is likely to set several more records and be recruited to swim at the collegiate level,” Morrison said. “Andrew will be one of the top Class A swimmers in whatever events we focus on the next two seasons.”

For all that he did accomplish, Casares said there were even more goals this season that he didn’t meet. Those will have to wait until next year, when he’ll likely be even stronger and faster.

“I hope to continue to break EL records, and just get faster in general,” Casares said. “I’m very excited for the team next year. It would be amazing if we won KVACs, and with the returning team and a couple new swimmers, I think we can do it. We’ve got some big team goals ahead of us.”

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