A year ago, Brent Williams and Robbie Bickford were approximately two weeks into their high school swim seasons at Brewer and Old Town, respectively. This year they have raced in seven meets for the UMaine Black Bears.

Their racing continues to be hot as they approach, along with their teammates, the intense training between semesters.

“Every time I put them on the blocks they just keep dropping their times. It is fun to see them improve weekly. They work very hard and do everything we ask of them,” Maine coach Susan Lizotte said.

At the recent University of Rhode Island Invitational, a two-day competition, both Williams and Bickford continued their impressive racing. In the 1,000 free, both recorded personal records of 10 minutes, 24 seconds and 10:31, respectively. In the 400 individual medley, Williams finished in 4:35; and in the 500 free, Bickford touched in 5:03.

“Their training has been a lot of distance swimming. Now, we will shift to more individual medley training preparing for second and third events at America East Championships,” explained Maine’s coach.

For the majority of the swimmers at the URI Invitational, the competition was the final meet of the first semester, prompting teams to rest, to shave, to taper, and to race in their speedy suits. Lizotte elected instead to have the Black Bears continue their regular training regimen, save for a slight drop in training yardage a couple of days before the racing. Even so, the Blacks Bears raced fast performances. Senior Jeremey Bender swam his fastest dual-meet season 400 individual medley, 4:17, to win the event.

“For Jeremey to come and win against a field shaved and tapered was very exciting,” Lizotte stated. Sophomore teammate Yuri Chornobil won two events, also, against the fields in the 1,650 and the 500 free, and prepped to swim rested.

“When Jeremey swims a long event, he is very efficient with his stroke. This year he has improved his pacing. He knows what he needs to be pacing in practice to get where he wants to be. When we do 100’s pace, he is holding 57s. He is swimming strong. We are happy with his development.”

A last minute change in the entry moving Mike Capossella from the 500 free to the 200 individual medley resulted in a personal record (2:05) for the New York sophomore.

“I am glad we made this change. He is well on his way not only in the freestyle but in the IM as well,” Lizotte noted.

Another change moved sprinter Roy Warren to the 100 breaststroke, prompting a personal record of 1:04 for the sophomore.

“We have been working Roy’s pullouts and breaststroke turns. I was not surprised by his time.”

Saturday the Black Bear men race against Bates College, a Division III squad, which upset the Black Bears a year ago with a speedy freestyle corps.

“I am going to line it up as best we can with our strongest lineup. They are good from what we can tell of their meet results,” Lizotte said.

America East has named Black Bear divers Tim Smith of Bangor and Kara Capossela of Greenwich, Conn., the league’s divers of the week. Capossela, undefeated in the last eight competitions, won both the 1 and 3 meter at the URI Invitational. Smith, won the 3 meter, and finished second on the 1 meter. Smith had no previous experience in 3-meter diving until this season. This is Smith’s second AE honor as diver of the week.

Swimming notebook

— Racing for Texas, the No. 1 ranked team in America, Mount Desert Island’s Ian Carbone contributed to the Longhorns’ win in the three-day Texas Hall of Fame Invitational last week. Texas scored 1, 148 points while Arizona scored second at 1,003. Carbone scored in the 200-yard breaststroke (2:03.1). He also raced the 200 individual medley (1:57) and the 100 breaststroke (57.2).

—- Meanwhile in Athens, Ga., Bangor native Erin Thomas led off the 400 free relay with a 50.5 as the Nittany Lions of Penn State claimed fourth place in the relay (3:20.1) and finished fourth in the seven-team competition. Thomas also split 22.8 off the 1:42 Penn State 200-medley relay and touched in a 1:49.9 200 free.

— Bentley College sophomore and Brewer native Jessica Hodsdon set a pool record and achieved an NCAA Division III “B” national meet time cut in the 100 breaststroke (1:07.1) at the Northeast Conference 10 Invitational recently. Bentley won the meet. And, Husson University sophomore — Amanda Mason was selected to the Great Northeast Conference All-Star team following her swims in the 200 back and the 400 IM at the GNAC championship won by Simmons College.

— Penobscot Valley Conference interscholastic male and female swimming and diving teams prepare for the opening of the dual-meet season with the annual PVC relay carnival Saturday at noon at UMaine.