Mailhot caps off career in style

The Conant and Mascenic swim teams participated in a six-team meet on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 at the Clark Memorial Pool in Winchendon, Mass.

(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

The Conant and Mascenic swim teams participated in a six-team meet on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 at the Clark Memorial Pool in Winchendon, Mass. (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

In each of the past two seasons, Conant senior Kali Mailhot saved her fastest swim for last.

She posted her personal bests in the 100-yard butterfly in each of the previous two Division II Championships, and Mailhot expected to do the same thing again this year.

And while the snowstorm that blanketed much of the state under a foot or two of snow changed how the course of Mailhot’s final postseason run would go, she still managed to once again set a new career standard.

When it was learned that the Division II Championships would be moved from Saturday to Sunday, forcing the cancellation of Meet of Champions, Mailhot still held out hope that she would do enough to qualify for New Englands.

Her goal all season was to make it to Meet of Champions. It’s actually been her goal for three years. In her first two attempts, Mailhot was 18th in the 100-yard butterfly as a sophomore with a time of 1:11.68 and then placed 15th last year in 1:10.47.

So if she wanted to obtain a top six position, which normally would have moved her on to the state level meet, Mailhot knew she would have to push herself to the limit. And not knowing that the New England Championships, typically held three weeks after the conclusion of the NH swimming weekend, had been cancelled in December, Mailhot did just that.

“Before I went in I thought this is my last chance,” said Mailhot. “I knew it was going to hurt.”

But when she looked at the large electronic scoreboard at the University of New Hampshire’s Swasey Pool, the Conant senior was disappointed. Mailhot thought her time was over a second slower than her previous best. It was not until she met with longtime Conant coach Margie Clark-Kevan that she realized the good news.

Her time was actually 1:07.08, almost a full second and a half better than her previous career best. And Mailhot had done it — she finished fourth and would have advanced to Meet of Champions.

“I was definitely happy to stand up there and get my medal,” said Mailhot.

But later in the meet, after her 200-yard freestyle relay team — consisting of seniors Stephanie Simoneau and Lianne Vaillancourt, as well as sophomore Katie L’Ecuyer — secured a sixth place finish, Mailhot and her teammates learned the news that there would be no New England meet.

“We took five seconds off as a team, which is huge in the freestyle,” said Mailhot.

Clark-Kevan chose to tell them after they were done swimming.

“I didn’t want to say anything before because I knew they’d be upset by it,” said Clark-Kevan.

Donn Friedman, the executive director of the Council of New England Secondary Schools Principals’ Association, confirmed in an email that the New England meet had been cancelled in December because only New Hampshire and Rhode Island were scheduled to compete and the by-laws of the association require at least three states to participate.

“I think it’s unfair that they’ve had New Englands every other year,” said Mailhot. “I feel like I would have improved on [my time] and it’s upsetting that I won’t get the chance.”

But regardless of whether Mailhot got to compete, she still reached her goal. She obtained that top six finish and came within two seconds of Katie Pryor’s school record.

“Pretty much the whole team is peaking right now,” said Clark-Kevan. “I’d love to have two more weeks of the season.”

It was difficult to accept her high school swimming days were over when she should have been competing in at least one more race.

“The bus ride home was the weirdest thing,” said Mailhot. “None of us seniors could believe it was over.”

Yet Mailhot is looking toward the future now. She plans to swim in college and open a new chapter in her swimming career.

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