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Nortonsmith, Whitcomb, Laclair double up at West/Central Swimming Championships

  • Belchertown senior Ben Laclair, top, swims toward a win in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4:39.32 at the West/Central Championships held at Springfield College on Sunday. For more photos and video, visit gazettenet.com. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Amherst senior Luca Brashear won the 1-meter dive event with a score of 537.65 at the West/Central Championships held at Springfield College, Sunday. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton senior Quinn Nortonsmith won the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 21.63 seconds at the West/Central Championships held at Springfield College, Sunday. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Belchertown senior Ben Laclair won the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4:39.32 at the West/Central Championships held at Springfield College on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton senior Nick Whitcomb swims toward a win in the 200-yard IM with a time of 1:55.73 at the West/Central Championships. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Amherst senior Luca Brashear won the 1-meter dive event with a score of 537.65 at the West/Central Championships held at Springfield College on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Amherst senior Luca Brashear won the 1-meter dive event with a score of 537.65 at the West/Central Championships held at Springfield College on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Amherst senior Luca Brashear won the 1-meter dive event with a score of 537.65 at the West/Central Championships held at Springfield College on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton senior Quinn Nortonsmith won the 100-yard breastroke with a time of 1:00.80 at the West/Central Championships held at Springfield College on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The Northampton 400-yard freestyle relay team takes the podium after winning with a time of 3:15.89 at the West/Central Championships held at Springfield College on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018. From foreground left, are freshman Oliver Schalet, senior Quinn Nortonsmith, junior Brendan McBride and senior Nick Whitcomb. Belchertown senior Christopher Chumbley is at far right. His Orioles squad placed third in the relay with a time of 3:19.73. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • The Northampton400-yard freestyle relay team takes the podium after winning with a time of 3:15.89 at the West/Central Championships held at Springfield College on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018. From left foreground, are freshman Oliver Schalet, senior Quinn Nortonsmith, junior Brendan McBride and senior Nick Whitcomb. Belchertown senior Christopher Chumbley is at far right. His Orioles squad placed third in the relay with a time of 3:19.73. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton junior Brendan McBride, in water, slaps hands with teammates, from left, seniors Nick Whitcomb and Quinn Nortonsmith and freshman Oliver Schalet after swimming the anchor leg of their 200-yard medley win at the West/Central Championships held at Springfield College on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018. Their time was 1:38.55. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Amherst senior Yonatan Ben-Chaim placed second in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 53.58 seconds at the West/Central Championships held at Springfield College on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING



@kylegrbwsk
Monday, February 12, 2018

SPRINGFIELD — Quinn Nortonsmith and Nick Whitcomb led the charge.

Northampton’s senior leaders won every event they entered at the West/Central Boys Swimming and Diving Championships, leading Hamp to a fourth-place finish, Sunday at Springfield College.

The Blue Devils had 207 points, while Longmeadow won its fourth-straight sectional title with 338. Belchertown amassed 197.5 points keyed by two event wins from senior Ben Laclair.

“I think we left everything in the pool today, and not just the people who get put on the spotlight, but everyone,” Whitcomb said.

Northampton opened the meet with a win in the 200-yard medley relay. Whitcomb, Nortonsmith, Oliver Schalet and Brendan McBride finished in 1 minute, 38.55 seconds.

“That started the guys to blast off in the other events they had,” Northampton coach Jonathan Dray said.

The Blue Devils led the meet in scoring through the first four events after they won three of them. Whitcomb finished first in the 200 individual medley in 1:55.73. He separated himself during the breaststroke portion after restraining his effort during the butterfly and backstroke, his two strongest strokes.

“In this pool I tend to go out too fast, I didn’t want to make that mistake again,” Whitcomb said.

Nortonsmith followed that by repeating as the 50 free champion in 21.63 second. He was the first one to the wall at 25 yards and held off the field down the stretch.

“You can’t really think too much about it,” Nortonsmith said.

Whitcomb wasn’t seeded to win his fourth straight 100 backstroke title. He entered the event ranked second behind Westfield’s Tommy Russell by .15 seconds.

The race ended with a familiar winner: Whitcomb in 51.03, besting Russell by .74 seconds.

“Me and Tommy have been through quite a bit recently out of high school swimming,” Whitcomb said. “All eyes on him, he’s going to be going fast real soon.”

Nortonsmith retained his crown in the 100 breaststroke. He won by more than a second, touching the wall in 1:00.8.

Then Northampton closed the meet with a school record in the 400 free relay. Whitcomb, Nortonsmith, Schalet and Brendan McBride finished in 3:15.89. They bettered their seed time by almost seven seconds.

“I knew we were going to break it,” Whitcomb said. “We had an amazing meet all the way through building up momentum until the very end.”

Northampton’s six event wins were the most of any team. The only other team that won more than one event was Belchertown, and Laclair had both.

He touched the wall first in both distance freestyle events for the third straight year. His win in the 500 free was his fourth in a row, finishing in 4:39.32, more than 13 seconds faster than his seed time.

Laclair held off West Springfield’s Eric Eastham for the 200 title, winning in 1:41.35. Eastham finished in 1:42.74.

“I like someone being there, pushing me,” Laclair said. “I knew he was going to be there, I didn’t think he was going to be that close.”

Laclair finished his sectional career with seven individual victories and two relay wins for the Orioles.

“This meet is different from any other championship because everyone is so friendly,” Laclair said. “It’s a really great experience, and I’m really going to miss it.”

Yonatan Ben-Chaim, of Amherst Regional, took second in the 100 butterfly in 53.58. He also was sixth in the 200 IM (2:07.43).

South Hadley’s Nate McClure was eighth in the 100 butterfly in 55.66 and the 100 breast in 1:06.48.

BRASHEAR RECLAIMS DIVING TITLE — Amherst Regional senior diver Luca Brashear tried to focus on himself and not look at the scoreboard. Jason Cook, his coach, noticed Brashear was nervous and anxious during his first few dives, so he pointed to the scoreboard and let Brashear know he was ahead.

“It put me in a more confident place,” Brashear said. “I felt like I was on top already, and if I keep doing what I’m doing, I’m there.”

Brashear scored 537.65 points to win the sectional championship. It’s his second career sectional title after winning as a sophomore.

He was more than 60 points clear of second-place Dion Holden from St. John’s, who had 476.4.

Brashear’s best dive was his back dive with 1½ somersaults that scored 25.5 points.

“I didn’t expect to do well on it,” Brashear said. “I really felt good about that.”

He scored at least 22.5 points on every dive and put scores above 24 on the board for five out of his 11 dives.

“He’s a very talented diver. The sky’s the limit,” Cook said. “For every talented diver there’s still a couple things to work on. During the state meet we’re going to be looking at his entries and then there were a couple dives here and there that need some fine tuning.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com.