Originally published in The Weekly Packet, March 16, 2017
GSA’s Sealander named PVC Swimmer of the Year
George Stevens Academy junior Ava Sealander was named Penobscot Valley Conference Female Swimmer of the Year, capping a winning season. Above, she competes at a regular season meet at the YMCA in Ellsworth. Photo by Franklin Brown
by Anne Berleant
A George Stevens Academy junior who has been swimming since she was 8 months old, Ava Sealander finished up her 2016-17 season as Penobscot Valley Conference Female Swimmer of the Year.
Sealander won two events at the PVC championships last month, and scored two third-place finishes at the Class B state championships. She will compete, for the second straight year, at the National Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, this April.
She also broke all eight GSA individual girls swim team records this season.
“Ava Sealander had some amazing swims,” GSA varsity swim coach Don Driscoll said, and she was a dominant force on a strong girls team that placed eighth in the PVC championships with only six girls.
Sealander’s path to one of the top swimmers in the state began at a young age, her mother, Robyn Sealander, said. “She loved the water from day one,” and took her first swim lesson at 8 months old.
At age 6, she joined the Downeast Family YMCA Dolphins swim team, and by age 12, she had notched up her competitive swimming.
“I started swimming faster, at a more competitive level,” Ava said. “I’ve always put a lot of work into swimming, but I started paying more attention to my technique and focusing on races I was getting stronger in.”
Her favorite stroke is the butterfly; she swam 100 yards in under a minute at the state championships in Orono in February, earning her a third-place medal. However, her top events this year were the 100 yard breaststroke and 200 yard freestyle; she won both events at the PVC championships and was named to the all-state all-star teams for both, along with winning the PVC Female Swimmer of the Year award.
The award “is a great honor for Ava,” noted Driscoll, who has coached Sealander since she was a freshman at GSA. Her YMCA coach, Matt Montgomery, who heads the Dolphin’s swim program, has coached her since “she was just a floatie-wearing toddler,” Robyn Sealander said.
Ava said she likes how swimming allows for an individual approach.
“Lots of [swimmers] have their own strategy when it comes to their races, and it’s really interesting to see how they use their own particular strengths and weaknesses.”
But it takes more than an early start and good coaching to perform at the level Sealander has.
“I swim every day after school, and two or three times a week before school starts,” she said. She plans on swimming at the college level, after she finishes her senior year at GSA.
“Ava has chosen to make a serious commitment to the sport, and her hard work definitely shows,” Robyn Sealander said.