BANGOR, Maine — Bangor High School led from start to finish at Saturday’s 39th annual Penobscot Valley Conference girls swimming championships.

But that’s not to say the event, held at Webber Pool on the campus of Husson University, lacked drama.

Coach Cindi Howard’s Rams built a lead of as many as 36½ points midway through the meet, then withstood a furious rally by four-time defending champion Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor by finishing ahead of the Trojans in the final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay.

Bangor edged MDI 213-203½, with John Bapst of Bangor (182), Brewer (158) and Old Town (153) rounding out the top five in the 12-team meet.

“I’m a senior and this is my first time beating MDI,” said Hannah Wood, who anchored Bangor’s 400 free relay team that placed second behind Brewer while MDI finished sixth. “It’s so much sweeter with this being my last PVCs to get that first win. It feels great.”

MDI actually had the fastest qualifying time for the final event while Bangor’s time was just fifth best. But Howard altered her team’s 400 free relay lineup in the aftermath of the Rams’ dual-meet loss to the Trojans earlier this season, and the quartet of Wood, sophomores Rachel Hand and Maddie Huerth, and junior Graci Wiseman clinched Bangor’s first conference crown since 2012.

“Just talking with the girls and knowing that they could move up a few notches, that’s where we were going to win the points,” said Howard. “They all swam great. They all did exactly what they were supposed to do.”

Bangor won a tight, three-way battle in the meet’s opening event, the 200 medley relay. Wood, Hand, Natalie Fournier and Lily Waddell combined to finish in 2 minutes, 0.20 seconds and edge MDI (2:00.47) and third-place John Bapst (2:00.74).

It was Bangor’s lone event victory, but superior depth throughout the meet enabled the Rams to build a lead they were able to preserve.

“As fast as the top swimmer is, it really doesn’t matter,” said Wood, who also finished second in the 500 free. “It’s all the kids who score in the top 12 that really matter.

“It’s all about the team. People think because we swim individually that it’s about individual swimming, but when it all comes down to it it’s all about team.”

MDI was paced by senior Lydia DaCorte, who won the 500 free, finished second in the 200 free and was part of the Trojans’ first-place 200 free relay team and second-place 200 medley relay squad.

DaCorte displayed both endurance and speed during back-to-back events midway through the meet that sparked the Trojans’ comeback.

First she knocked 11.99 seconds off her qualifying time to win the 500 free (5:21.12), though Wood’s runner-up finish helped Bangor increase its lead in the team scoring to 151-122 over John Bapst through eight events, with MDI third at 116.5.

DaCorte then swam a 25.45-second anchor leg as MDI rallied past Bangor by 0.12 seconds in the 200 free relay. DaCorte was joined by Ceileigh Weaver, Ruby Brown and Maddie Woodworth as the Trojans won in 1:48.57.

“I just go out and do my thing.” said DeCorte, who will swim and study at Wheaton College in Massachusetts next year. “I don’t save energy, I just swim my races. At a championship meet like this, it’s good to just go.”

Ellsworth’s Ellie Clarke then won the 100 backstroke, but MDI’s Woodworth, Bailey Cust and Brown finished third, sixth and seventh, respectively, to account for 28 points and draw the Trojans within 182-176½ of Bangor with two events left.

MDI’s Weaver finished sixth in the 100 breaststroke while Bangor’s Natalie Fournier placed eighth, narrowing the Trojans’ deficit to 1½ points at 187-185½.

“It’s the exciting part of swimming,” said Wood.

Jenna Clukey of Foxcroft Academy and Ava Sealander of George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill each won two individual events.

Clukey, a junior, outsprinted Ellsworth’s Clarke over the final 25 yards to capture the 50 freestyle in 25.72 seconds.

Clukey earned her second individual victory moments later, again coming on strong during the second half of the race to win the 100 butterfly in 1:02.34. Washington Academy’s Ava Emery was second in 1:03.92.

“Both of the girls I swam against are good competitors of mine,” said Clukey. “So I took the races out with them and I knew if I could keep something in the tank I could go by them in the end.

“I’m pretty competitive so I use that as motivation. I like having someone swimming right next to me. It makes me go faster.”

Sealander won the first and final individual events of the meet. First she outlasted DaCorte by to win the 200 freestyle in 1:58.29, racing out to an early lead only to have DaCorte catch her midway through the event before regaining control over the last 50 meters to win by 0.99 seconds.

Three hours later the GSA junior scored a 3.27-second victory over second-place Riley Satterfield of John Bapst in the 100 breaststroke.

Other event winners were John Bapst’s Laura Skacel in the 200 individual medley (2:19.77), Kassidy Harriman of Old Town in the diving (386.35 points), McKenna Porter of Brewer in the 100 free (59.50) and the Brewer 400 free relay team of Porter, Hannah Friedman, Sydney Blain and Erin Aucoin.

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...