Hebron Academy’s Emma Frumiento swims in the 100 butterfly. Frumiento finished 11th in the race, but won the 50 freestyle. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

BRUNSWICK — Tuesday was the day of the nomads at the Class A swimming and diving state championship meet.

Hebron Academy junior Emma Frumiento won a state title in the 50-yard freestyle after coming so close in her first two seasons, finishing the race in 25.27 seconds.

Frumiento is one of many swimmers from several nearby schools who trains with the Edward Little/Leavitt/Poland co-op. She placed second at the state meet last year and fifth as a freshman.

Lewiston’s Gabby Roy claimed two top-five finishes, placing third in the 100 butterfly and fifth in the 50 freestyle.

Meanwhile, the Deering/Portland RamDogs capped a nomadic season, which required home meets 45 minutes away in Sanford because of pool issues in Portland, with a state championship.

Six points separated the top three teams in the Class A girls swimming and diving state championship meet. Either Thornton Academy or Falmouth led through the first 10 of 12 events, but the cooperative team of Deering/Portland (which also includes students from Casco Bay and Baxter Academy) rode a late surge to victory.

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After placing ninth a year ago, Deering/Portland finished with 222 points. Thornton and Falmouth shared runner-up honors at 216, followed by Brewer/Hampden at 202, South Portland at 172, Cony at 165, Brunswick at 158, Gorham at 146, and 15 other schools.

“I did not expect this at all,” said junior captain Kaia West, who remained unconvinced of the overall victory after helping Deering/Portland place sixth in the concluding 400-yard freestyle relay. “Personally, I thought we were going to do well, but the only person who was like – First place! – was Maria. I was like, we’re going to do great, but Thornton’s got first place.”

Lewiston’s Gabby Roy participates in the 100 yard butterfly. Roy finished third in 1:01.90. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Maria is Portland senior Maria Delmonte, who won the 100 backstroke in 57.94 seconds and the 200 individual medley in 2:08.38. Delmonte also anchored the 400 free relay, a race whose outcome could have swung the overall title to any of four different teams.

Fifth place or better would have clinched the meet for Deering/Portland, but the RamDogs took sixth. That gave Falmouth an opportunity to tie for the title, but the Navigators couldn’t hold off a Thornton quartet led by freshmen Mackenzie Shields and Lucy Perry that shaved nine seconds off the school record to win in 3:50.63.

“Well-earned by the Thornton girls,” said Falmouth coach Paul Druchniak. “(Tuesday was) some of the best competition that we’ve had at a state meet in my whole time coaching.”

With a big assist from junior Jillian James, who set a meet record of 488.05 points while winning her third straight diving title, Falmouth pulled ahead of Thornton by taking the 200 free relay (from Lane 1, as the seventh seed, in 1:47.37). At that point, with three events remaining, Deering/Portland and Brewer/Hampden were tied for second, trailing Falmouth by 13.

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A first (Delmonte) and 15th (sophomore Axel Townsend) in backstroke coupled with an 8-11-14 performance in the 100 breast stroke (juniors Anica Spencer and Sophia Harrod-Kim and freshman Nell Fernald) lifted the RamDogs into first place. They entered the final relay up 14 points on Falmouth, 20 on Thornton and 26 on Brewer/Hampden.

“We scored out the meet in advance and we saw that first through fifth was a total toss-up,” said Sarah Rasmussen, head coach of Deering/Portland. “These kids came into today revved up and ready to go. It was amazing to watch.”

Delmonte was the team’s only individual winner. She also helped the 200 medley relay take third, along with Spencer, Harrod-Kim and West. The only other top-five finishes came courtesy of West (fourth in the 500 free) and Harrod-Kim (fifth in the 100 butterfly).

The RamDogs were sixth in the 200 free relay, with Townsend, Harrod-Kim, junior Anya Heiden and senior Olivia Chong. West and Heiden took sixth and seventh in the 200 free, and Heiden was eighth in the 100 free.

“It was 100 percent a team effort,” Rasmussen said. “These kids came into the year with no expectations of what they could do. For them to race at this level is just remarkable.”

The only other state title in the history of either school came in 1986 when Deering interrupted a string of nine Class A championships for Bangor.

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Delmonte wasn’t the only double winner Tuesday. Shields of Thornton Academy won the 200 and 500 free, in 1:59.40 and 5:16.70, and was named Swimmer of the Meet. Perry, also of Thornton, won the 100 breast in 1:08.32.

The other two individual titles went to Brewer/Hampden senior Rhyannon Price (100 butterfly, 1:00.22) and Brunswick freshman Layla Hammer (100 freestyle, 54.66).

Thornton opened the meet by winning the 200 medley relay (1:55.00) and closed it by holding off Falmouth by more than a second in the 400 free relay.

“Very happy, very proud,” Thornton coach Kathy Leahy said of her squad. “They had huge improvements.”

In the end, however, it was the girls of Deering/Portland leaping into the pool to celebrate their surprising state championship, exulting with their hybrid cries of Rams (baah) and Dogs (woof).

They practiced at Reiche School twice a week and shared the Portland YMCA pool with Cheverus on two other days. Neither pool has starting blocks.

“We worked so hard in the pool, without a pool even,” West said. “I know this can be turned into a story about underdogs, but we’re not underdogs anymore. It’s so amazing.”


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