In the fall of her ninth-grade year, with a pandemic limiting her options at local swimming pools, Audrey Cohen decided to run cross country for Greely High in Cumberland.
She learned something about herself that autumn.
“I’m a water animal,” Cohen said, “not a land animal.”
Now a sophomore, Cohen prefers to stay in her lane. Racing with a bathing cap instead of running spikes, she broke a state record in the 100-yard breaststroke at the Class B championship meet and also won the 50 freestyle. She posted the fastest times in the state, regardless of class, in four individual events and was third in two others.
She is our choice as Varsity Maine Girls’ Swimmer of the Year.
Greely Coach Rob Hale describes Cohen as a team-first athlete who delights in the accomplishments of others. He uses terms such as humble and goofy.
“It’s a very relaxed atmosphere when she shows up,” he said. “But when it’s time to race, you’re in trouble.”
Cohen added three more school records to the one she set last year. She now holds Greely marks for the 50 freestyle (24.33 seconds), 100 free (52.49), 100 butterfly (57.46) and 100 breaststroke (1:03.27).
The latter time earned her All-America consideration – it’s currently 40th nationally and the top 100 at season’s end earn the distinction – and surpassed the old state record of 1:03.72 established by Genna Worthley of Deering in 2013. It was the only Maine state record set this year, for boys or girls.
Named Performer of the Meet in Class B, Cohen also swam the opening leg of Greely’s 400 free relay in 52.49 seconds. Neither the Class A nor Class B individual state champions in the 100 free managed to break 53 seconds while winning their races.
And yet, when asked about the high point of such an impressive season, Cohen immediately brings up a 500-yard freestyle race in which she barely got wet. Junior teammate Hunter Maxham had been trying all season to beat six minutes in the 20-lap event, and Cohen served as her counter, cheering madly and holding numerical signs underwater that track the swimmer’s progression.
It was at the Southwesterns meet, just prior to states, that Maxham achieved her breakthrough.
“It was so much fun seeing her reaction because I know how hard she worked for it,” Cohen said. “Every time she swims the 500, I get to count for her. You could see the progression every single meet. She got closer and closer to six, and then she finally got it. It was awesome.”
Southwesterns was also the meet in which Cohen swam the 200 individual medley (which incorporates all four strokes) in 2:06.75. No other girl in Maine came within four seconds of that time this winter. The two state champions in that event clocked 2:12 and 2:16.
“She’s an amazing competitor,” Hale said. “She wants to race the best and see where she stands.”
Hale said Cohen’s work ethic carries over into the classroom. She also swims for the Southern Maine Aquatic Club, which doesn’t have a home pool. Instead, swimmers receive tailored workouts and are expected to do them on their own, at whatever pool is most convenient.
Cohen said she aspires to swim in college, but for now is focused on daily improvement.
“There’s so many things to work on in swimming,” she said. “I feel like every race there’s always something I could have done better.”
The other motivating factor for her is camaraderie.
“Especially in high school swimming,” she said, “just being with all my teammates every day, it’s pretty cool.”
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