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Varsity Maine Girls' Swimmer of the Year: Audrey Cohen, Greely

Mar. 15—Last summer, Rob Hale and Audrey Cohen were perusing the record board at the Greely High swimming pool and considering the upcoming season, her last in high school.

Cohen asked Hale — now in his fourth decade of coaching at the Cumberland school — about a few of the marks involving names other than hers.

"You think I could get that record?" she asked about the 58.54-second pool standard in the 100-yard backstroke, established by Alexandra Ericson of neighboring Yarmouth High in 2022.

Hale considered the possibility of Cohen dropping five seconds from her best time in the backstroke, her weakest event.

"No," he said.

Cohen also asked about school records for the 200- and 500-yard freestyle, the latter of which had stood for 25 years, and maybe taking a shot at those events at Southwesterns or the state meet. Each time, Hale shook his head.

Now he chuckles about his answers.

"You don't tell Audrey no," Hale said. "Then it becomes a goal."

Cohen not only captured all three of those records, she wrapped up her high school career with a perfect slate. In four years, she never lost an individual race. In February, she won her third straight Class A title in the 100 breast stroke and added the 200 individual medley.

She is the only high school swimmer in Maine history, boy or girl, to crack the list of top-20 times in all eight individual events. Her 100 breast stroke time of 1:03.27, set two years ago, remains the state record.

For a third year in a row, she is our choice as Varsity Maine Girls' Swimmer of the Year.

"She's the toughest racer I've ever coached, male or female," Hale said. "You just can't say no to Audrey. She gets this look in her face. There's still a smile, but you can see: I'm going to prove you wrong."

This winter, Cohen registered the season's fastest times in the 100 breast, 100 butterfly, 200 individual medley and 50, 200 and 500 freestyle. In the other two individual events — the 100 free and 100 backstroke — only one swimmer was faster.

Those were Portland senior Maria DelMonte, by .29 seconds in the backstroke and Cape Elizabeth senior Brooke Mahoney, by .04 in the 100 free. Both will continue at the NCAA Division I level in college.

While hoping to keep her unbeaten streak intact, Cohen also wanted to make it meaningful. She deliberately sought out the best competition at Southwesterns and the state meet, resulting in four challenging individual races.

"I'm glad I did that because I want to race the best people there are," Cohen said. "I wanted to test myself and see how it goes."

At Southwesterns, she battled Mahoney stroke for stroke in a memorable 200 free that resulted in the seventh- and eighth-fastest times in Maine history for girls. Cohen mistimed a turn and trailed through 100 and 150 yards but fought back to win by .26 seconds in 1:53.19.

"I've never been so dead after a race," Cohen said. "Cookie's an amazing competitor. We've raced since we were 8 years old. We push each other to truly be our best swimmers."

Later that meet, Cohen pulled away from Cape junior Hope Taylor in the 500 free to win in 5:09.33 (ninth all-time). Taylor was four seconds back, but still 17th all-time. Nearly 40 seconds elapsed before anyone else finished.

At the state meet, Cohen edged Cape junior Lucy Shaw in the 200 individual medley (by .42 in 2:08.37) and Morse senior Eliza Marco in the 100 breast (by almost two seconds in 1:04.06).

As for the Greely pool record in the 100 backstroke, Cohen snagged it during the last home meet of the season, with a time of 58.01.

"I had my parents there, I had all my friends there," Cohen said. "Because it was Senior Night, there was a lot of emotion. I always want to believe in myself, but I didn't know if I could break that 100 back record."

Changes in the swim program at the University of Alabama prompted Cohen to switch gears with her college selection. She will enroll at Penn State in the fall and plans a premed course of study.

Completing her unbeaten streak may have been an overarching goal, but it wasn't her only concern this winter.

"I'm happy for the team as well," Cohen said. "We had some great swimmers, and we had some freshmen who exceeded all expectations and swam great at states. So although I won't be with the team next year, I'm excited for the future that Greely has."