Edward Little/Leavitt swim team members from left to right, Chase Leonardo, Gavin Holbrook, Andrew Casares and Paul Dimitri get together for a photo prior to Monday’s practice as their teammates make a big splash behind them at the YWCA pool in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — The Edward Little boys swim team had a successful shortened 2021 season, finishing second at the virtual KVAC championships.

The team is now riding that momentum into the 2021-22 season.

“The first meet (on Friday), it went pretty well, we won, the relay (teams) did amazing,” junior Andrew Casares said. “We have a lot of boys this year; we went from four or five to eight or nine this year. I think we have a shot a KVAC win or placing really high again.”

Despite losing Jack Hart and Konnor Simpson due to graduation, the team has added depth through a cooperative agreement. Scott Morrison, who has coached Edward Little and Leavitt swimmers, has been in talks with Leavitt athletic directors throughout the years about forming a co-op team for both boys and girls. This year, Leavitt’s school department signed off on it.

Sophomore Gavin Holbrook and freshman Chase Leonardo are two Leavitt swimmers ready to help the team.

“They are top-tiered swimmers, and they are really young, too,” senior Paul Dimitri said. “So they are really going to benefit this program.”

Holbrook is excited to be a part of official relay teams this season.

“I know the girls have always had higher numbers for Leavitt, so they always had relays,” Holbrook said. “The (Leavitt) boys never really had that kind of chance. So, I am glad I get to participate with EL and have a great relay team.”

Holbrook swam on the 200-yard medley and 400-yard freestyle relay teams in a meet with Erskine Academy last Friday.

Even with the addition of Holbrook, who finished second in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard breaststroke at the KVAC championships, Morrison knew there was an influx of Auburn swimmers coming to Edward Little that could help for another strong season.

“I knew there were more boys coming this year; some freshmen and some sophomores who chose not to swim because of COVID,” Morrison said. “Thinking what Leavitt had, the EL boys lost the KVAC championship by two points to Mt. Ararat. Even with the loss of Jack and Konnor, adding the boys we had coming in and plus Leavitt, that gives us a huge boost.”

Dimitri and sophomore Isaac Raymond are expected to have solid individual seasons. Raymond finished fifth in the 50-yard freestyle and third in the 500-yard freestyle at the KVAC championships. Dimitri finished seventh in the 50-yard freestyle and 12th in the 500-yard freestyle.

“We are going to have an amazingly strong group of kids from both schools,” Holbrook said. “Chase from Leavitt, we have Paul (Dimitri), who’s a senior this year, and we have Isaac (Raymond), who’s also a sophomore. That’s going to be a great group of kids that can come together and make a great team.”

Beginning with last Friday’s 80-4 victory over Erskine Academy, the groundwork has begun for another successful year. Casares, who was named the Sun Journal All-Region swimmer of the year last season, broke Edward Little’s school record in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 54.64 seconds. Shawn Bazinet set the previous mark in 1989.

Morrison expects Casares to break one or two more school records this season.

A return to a more normal season will help preparations as the season goes along.

“Now, having less restrictions is allowing us to swim harder and train more vigorously without having to worry about social distancing,” Holbrook said. “We can get in harder sets while keeping it compact without worrying about spacing. Last year, we had to keep it 45-minute breaks, so some of us would have to sit out while the rest of the team is in the pool.”

Dimitri is glad to be back in the pool with both teammates and opponents. Last year, schools had virtual meets where teams swam in their respective home pools to record the times.

“It’s really nice to have in-person meets, being able to race your opponents, it’s a lot better atmosphere than last year during COVID,” Dimitri said. “Having spectators helps a lot to get everybody excited and pumped for the races. It makes it a lot more enjoyable for everyone.”

Morrison believes EL/Leavitt can be a top-10 team at the Class A meet in February. He believes it has been a little over 30 years since Edward Little had a boys team of this caliber.

“I have been the coach for 20 years at EL,” Morrison said. “We certainly have had individual boys who have done very well. … As a team, I would tell you 1989-1990, that was the boys’ very best ever that I am aware of. EL boys have been swimming prior to the 1950s.”

Casares hopes to take on a leadership role this season. He wants to be an example of what it takes to have a successful season.

“I am hoping to be a captain this year, and I have been talking to Scott and I submitted letters to apply (for the captaincy),” Casares said. “I think I can try my best to lead by example, working hard, showing everybody what’s it like to put in the work. If we can get the whole team (to buy in), we can win.”

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