Edward Little/Leavitt’s Andrew Casares competes in the 200-yard freestyle event at the Lesley Martin and Chris Campbell Memorial Swim Meet against Lewiston in February at the YWCA in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Edward Little junior Andrew Casares said he is more proud of the team’s success than his individual success this season.

He helped Edward Little/Leavitt to a sixth-place finish at the Class A state championship and a first-place finish at the KVAC championship.

Casares said the group clicked from the start of the season, which made training and competing fun.

“Every night at practice, when you have your boys surrounding you, it’s just more of a fun experience, and it just makes you want work harder,” Casares said. “We played games and do activities that really make you want to get in the pool every night and be excited at practice.”

Casares was part of setting three school records this season and was named the Oustanding Male Swimmer a the KVAC Class A meet. And, for the second year in a row, he has been chosen as the Sun Journal All-Region Boys Swimmer of the Year.

Throughout the season, Casares elevated the team.

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He swam legs of Edward Little/Leavitt’s KVAC championship-winning 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays. He also helped the Red Eddies place fourth in both events at the Class A state meet.

Edward Little-Leavitt’s Andrew Casares was named the Outstanding Male Swimmer of the Class A KVAC swim meet in February at Bath YMCA. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

During the regular season, on Dec. 17, Casares teamed with Chase Leonardo, Gavin Holbrook and Isaac Raymond to set a school record of 1:40.50 in the 200 freestyle relay.

Scott Morrison, Edward Little/Leavitt’s coach, said Casares made his teammates better because they wanted to be as fast as him.

“Andrew can swim any stroke, and by swimming him in other events, that makes his teammates just a little bit faster because they want to try to race with him or get a (personal) best time,” Morrison said. “That makes Gavin (Holbrook), Chase (Leonardo), Cameron (Lemiuex) of Poland and Ethan Fruiemento from Hebron — it makes every one of those kids faster.”

Casares also was outstanding individually this season.

Early in the season, he set new school records in the 100-yard butterfly (54.64) on Dec. 10 and the 200-yard individual medley (2:07.16) on Dec. 17.

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Those are Casares’ second and third individual school records. Near the end of his sophomore season, he set a new record in the 500 freestyle (4:58.40) at the 2021 KVAC championships.

“Last year, with that record, my only goal this year was to get a few more this year, which made it a successful season,” Casares said. “I am very grateful for that, and I am very grateful for the team around me. I think the goal was those records, but the goal was to win KVACs. I’ve been told by Scott that we had a chance to win KVACs with our new co-op with Leavitt. That got me really excited, and I really wanted to work hard and motivate (my teammates).”

Morrison wasn’t surprised that Casares took down the 100 butterfly and 200 IM marks early in the 2021-22 campaign because he knew Casares would enter the season already in good shape due to swimming for the YMCA club team in Augusta.

Edward Little/Leavitt’s Andrew Casares wins the 100-yard butterfly in 54.19 seconds during the Class A KVAC championships at the Bath YMCA in February. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“I knew by the time we started the high school (season), he was going to be in decent shape, he’s ready to swim,” Morrison said. “I said: ‘Before you get too tired, we are going to work really hard, shortly thereafter the beginning of the season, right through the three-quarter mark of the season, we are going to be working really hard. It’s harder to break records at that point. So you are either going to break them right at the start of the season or the end.'”

Casares qualified for the Class A state championship in every individual event. Swimmers are allowed to compete in only two individual races at postseason meets, and Casares chose the 200 IM and in the 100 butterfly at the KVAC and state championships. He won both events at KVACs, and his times, 54.19 in the butterfly and 2:03.35 in the 200 IM, broke the school records he set earlier in the year.

At the state championships, he finished third in the 200 IM (2:03.84) and fourth in the 100 butterfly (54.43).

Casares is excited for next season, both individually and for the team, since the majority of the Edward Little/Leavitt swimmers will return.

“Sixth place is fantastic, but it’s not as good as fifth,” Casares said. “There’s always room to work and time to get faster, and some of these kids on the medley relays are freshmen and sophomores. I think as they continue to grow as people and swimmers, we have so much potential to be really, really fast next year.”

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