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The heat is on, and it's a streak; Gardner swimmers seeking 15th win.

Byline: Jay Gearan

GARDNER - The pressure is on -again - for the talented Gardner High girls swim team. Today at Harvard University's Blodgett Pool, the Wildcats will attempt to win their 15th-straight state championship.

Their amazing championship streak, which began in 1994, is unlike any other record in state high school sports history. If any athletic program should be labeled as a true sports dynasty, it's the Gardner High girls swim team from the mid-1990s through this year.

"We're hoping to keep the streak alive," said Gardner High coach Don Lemieux, architect of the super-successful teams over the years. "It's never easy though. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication put in by these girls. Countless hours of practice."

In the last two weeks, in solid, preliminary victories leading up to the state meet, the Wildcats won the league meet at Tantasqua and the South-Central Sectionals at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Leading the way for Gardner are seniors Lindsey Hagens, Hannah Kondrotas, Eve Barnard, Shannan Lambert and Kelsey Dewey. Those girls were only four years old when the Wildcats won their first state title.

"I can't remember when we've had so many seniors on the team," said Mr. Lemieux. "We'll certainly miss them next year."

Ms. Dewey, who has been swimming at the Greenwood Pool, coached by Mr. Lemieux, since the seventh grade, said about the upcoming championship meet, "I'm really excited. This is the highlight of my season, and I feel like I'm really ready for it. I'm pumped."

With three state championship team titles already on her resume, she's expected to do well, earning points for the Wildcats in the 100 butterfly and the 100 breaststroke.

Valuable junior swimmers are Tina Belletete and Danielle Sekurski. Sophomores include Kerry Dewey and Vanessa L'Heureux. The lone freshman is Anna MacKay.

The Wildcats will compete in 11 events, beginning with the 200 medley relay, featuring Ms. Belletete, Ms. Hagens, Ms. Kondrotas and Ms. Barnard.

The 200 medley relay precedes the 200 freestyle, the 200 individual medley in which Ms. Kondrotas and Ms. Hagens are favorites, the 50 freestyle with Ms. Barnard, the 100 butterfly, the 100 freestyle, the grueling 500 freestyle and the 200 freestyle relay, the 100 backstroke, the 100 breaststroke and the 400 freestyle relay.

Three years ago, the Wildcats had their closest finish, edging Weston by only two points. Last year, Gardner won comfortably over second-place Lincoln-Sudbury. In 2006, they finished first, 82 points better than Beverly.

"The pool at Harvard is one of the nicest around, so we're excited about swimming there," Mr. Lemieux said.

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Gardner High senior swimmer Kelsey Dewey and coach Don Lemieux.

PHOTOG: JAY GEARAN
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Feb 24, 2008
Words:445
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