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Ben Laclair goes the distance for Belchertown swimming at Western Mass championships

  • Belchertown junior Benjamin Leclair won the 200-yard freestyle 1:41.44 at the Western Massachusetts Swimming and Diving Championships held at Springfield College on Saturday, February 11, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Belchertown junior Benjamin Leclair won the 500-yard freestyle in 4:41.67 at the Western Massachusetts Swimming and Diving Championships held at Springfield College on Saturday, February 11, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Belchertown junior Benjamin Leclair won the 500-yard freestyle in 4:41.67 at the Western Massachusetts Swimming and Diving Championships held at Springfield College on Saturday, February 11, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton junior Nick Whitcomb won the 100-yard butterfly in 52.51 seconds at the Western Massachusetts Swimming and Diving Championships held at Springfield College on Saturday, February 11, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton junior Quinn Nortonsmith won the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:01.02 at the Western Massachusetts Swimming and Diving Championships held at Springfield College on Saturday, February 11, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton junior Nick Whitcomb won the 100-yard backstroke in 51.99 seconds at the Western Massachusetts Swimming and Diving Championships held at Springfield College on Saturday, February 11, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton junior Nick Whitcomb won the 100-yard backstroke in 51.99 seconds at the Western Massachusetts Swimming and Diving Championships held at Springfield College on Saturday, February 11, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton junior Nick Whitcomb won the 100-yard backstroke in 51.99 seconds at the Western Massachusetts Swimming and Diving Championships held at Springfield College on Saturday, February 11, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton junior Quinn Nortonsmith won the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:01.02 at the Western Massachusetts Swimming and Diving Championships held at Springfield College on Saturday, February 11, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton junior Quinn Nortonsmith won the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:01.02 at the Western Massachusetts Swimming and Diving Championships held at Springfield College on Saturday, February 11, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Belchertown junior Jarred Veroneau, left, freshman Christopher Chumbley and senior Dennis Lelic cheer on junior Benjamin Leclair as he swims the anchor leg of their winning 400-yard freestyle relay at the Western Massachusetts Swimming and Diving Championships held at Springfield College on Saturday, February 11, 2017. The Tigers won with a time of 3:19.89. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Amherst Regional junior Luca Brashear placed second in the 1-meter dive with 478.45 points at the Western Massachusetts Swimming and Diving Championships held at Springfield College on Saturday, February 11, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Belchertown freshman Christopher Chumbley won the 200-yard individual medley in 2:02.52 at the Western Massachusetts Swimming and Diving Championships held at Springfield College on Saturday, February 11, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Amherst freshman Noah Labich placed second in the 200-yard individual medley in 2:05.51 at the Western Massachusetts Swimming and Diving Championships held at Springfield College on Saturday, February 11, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton junior Quinn Nortonsmith won the 50-yard freestyle in 22.22 seconds at the Western Massachusetts Swimming and Diving Championships held at Springfield College on Saturday, February 11, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Amherst Regional junior Luca Brashear placed second in the 1-meter dive with 478.45 points at the Western Massachusetts Swimming and Diving Championships held at Springfield College on Saturday, February 11, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton junior Nick Whitcomb won the 100-yard butterfly in 52.51 seconds at the Western Massachusetts Swimming and Diving Championships held at Springfield College on Saturday, February 11, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton junior Quinn Nortonsmith won the 50-yard freestyle in 22.22 seconds at the Western Massachusetts Swimming and Diving Championships held at Springfield College on Saturday, February 11, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton junior Quinn Nortonsmith won the 50-yard freestyle in 22.22 seconds at the Western Massachusetts Swimming and Diving Championships held at Springfield College on Saturday, February 11, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING



@kylegrbwsk
Sunday, February 12, 2017

SPRINGFIELD – Belchertown junior Ben Laclair flew off the starting blocks with a target in sight; Belchertown’s freestyle torpedo was locked on.

The Orioles trailed after the first two legs of the 400-yard freestyle relay at Saturday’s Western Massachusetts swimming championships before Christopher Chumbley pulled them back in contention on the third leg.

“Basically go an expend all the energy I have to catch up so Ben can get in and win it,” Chumbley said.

Laclair leapt in the water as the anchor leg in third place. The two teams in front of the Orioles were in trouble as soon as he started churning.

Belchertown won the event in 3 minutes, 19.89 seconds, edging overall team champion Longmeadow by .83 seconds.

“I like to have someone to chase because it makes me push myself a lot more,” Laclair said. “That’s when I get best times on those splits and work as hard as I can for my team.”

It was the only race Laclair even close to trailed in at Springfield College.

He repeated as Western Mass. champion in both distance freestyle events. Laclair broke his own Western Mass. record in the 200 freestyle, touching the wall in 1:41.44. Minnechaug’s Chase Kontodiakos was second in 1:46.07.

“I felt pretty confident in being able to win it. I knew what my record was and what I wanted to go,” Laclair said.

The record was 1:43.25. He lowered it by nearly two seconds.

Laclair outpaced the field by even more in the 500 freestyle. He touched the wall in 4:41.67, beating second place Jack Freeman of Longmeadow (4:52.77) by nearly 11 seconds.

The time didn’t quite meet Laclair’s high standards for himself.

“My 500, I know I need to work on now because I wasn’t quite where I wanted to be,” Laclair said.

In addition to Laclair’s two victories, Belchertown also picked up an individual first place from Chumbley. He won the 200 individual medley in 2:02.52, edging top-seeded Noah Labich of Amherst, who finished at 2:05.51.

“All week I was focusing on turns, breastroke, which is my weakest stroke, and trying to fit it all together into one good race,” Chumbley said.

Those victories helped the Orioles to a fifth-place finish with 206 points. Longmeadow won with more than 300.

Northampton took seventh with 170 behind standout individual days from Quinn Nortonsmith and Nick Whitcomb.

Whitcomb repeated as the sectional champion in the 100 backstroke in 51.99 seconds. It was .2 seconds slower than his seeded time and well off the time he needed for All-American consideration.

“I had some decent swims, I wouldn’t say I’m too happy with them,” Whitcomb said. “I did have a really good (fun) time (at the meet).”

He also won the 100 butterfly in 52.51.

Nortonsmith grabbed two individual wins, as well.

He captured the 50 freestyle title in his first attempt at a championship meet at 22.22 seconds, out-touching Nicholas Rosso of Westfield by .38 seconds.

“You have less control in a 50. Say you take one less kick off the wall, or something, that might be the difference between first and last,” Nortonsmith said. “There were a lot of fast guys behind the blocks, and I was just talking with them getting excited.”

Nortonsmith also claimed the championship in the 100 breaststroke after taking second last year. He won in 1:01.2.

“I won two events, which I was surprised about and very happy,” Nortonsmith said. “The times weren’t what I was expecting or hoping, but I still had a great time.”

Brashear satisfied with 2nd

Not repeating as the diving champion didn’t bother Amherst Regional junior Luca Brashear.

He finished second behind Monson’s Connor Pennington, scoring 478.45 points to Pennington’s 576.4.

“I think second place is respectable,” Brashear said. “We still got states, though, looking forward to that.”

Pennington’s mark set a Western Mass. record, besting the mark of Brashear’s coach, former Amherst diver Jason Cook, who hit 575.5 in 2008.

“Connor had a much higher (degree of difficulty) list,” Brashear said. “He had a lot of dives that I just don’t have yet. I’m happy with my diving today. Personally I’m not a great diver in the morning.”

Brashear finished fifth at states last year but didn’t have Cook directing him. The former state champion has plans to help prepare his pupil.

“He had some really nice dives and some OK dives,” Cook said. “All of his voluntary dives, he nailed. It’s just the harder dives here and there. It’s just fine-tuning the harder dives, tweaking things here and there.”

The boys Division 2 state championships are 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Boston University.