State D2 swimming: Northampton’s Nick Whitcomb repeats, Belchertown’s Ben Laclair breaks 500 record


  • 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


  • 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’s Nick Whitcomb, center, after winning the 100-yard backstroke state Division 2 title for the second consecutive year. His time, 50.89 seconds, earned All-American consideration. GAZETTE STAFF / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Belchertown’s Ben Laclair, center, on the podium after winning the 500-yard freestyle state Division 2 championship. It’s his first individual state title. GAZETTE STAFF / KYLE GRABOWSKI

Published: 2/19/2017 11:44:40 PM

BOSTON — After 25 yards, Nick Whitcomb only raced himself.

The Northampton junior still won the 100-yard backstroke state Division 2 championship in 50.89 seconds, quick enough to warrant All-American consideration at Boston University Sunday night.

“I remember it was my freshman year, some kid got All-American, and I was like ‘wow, I really want to reach that level,” Whitcomb said. “Hearing that was amazing. Hopefully next year I’ll get the actual (automatic) All-American.”

It was his second consecutive title in the event and lowered the Western Mass. record he already owns.

“Backstroke is my event. I really wanted to hold onto it,” Whitcomb said.

Belchertown’s Ben Laclair grabbed an individual state championship for the first time in the 500 freestyle. He won in 4 minutes, 38.2 seconds — a western Massachusetts record.


Laclair bested his closest rival by more than 10 seconds. After he finished, he turned to look at the clock and softly pumped his left fist before lightly dunking his head back under water.

“I’ve been working since freshman year,” Laclair said. “The only word I could use was ‘finally.’”

Despite Laclair’s wins, his two second-place finishes may stick with him longer.

He was the top seed in the 200 freestyle for the second straight year, yet Canton’s Sebastian Melendez beat him for the second straight year, swimming 1:40.27 to Laclair’s 1:42.19.

They exchanged a fist bump behind the blocks before the race.

“He’s a really good friend. He’s always good with sportsmanship,” Laclair said. “It’s always fun swimming against him.”

The second silver medal came in the 400 freestyle relay. Laclair anchored the team, which included Jarred Veroneau, Dennis Lelic and Christopher Chumbley, just like he did at the Western Mass. championships, but he couldn’t bring them all the way back for a state title.

Weston had too big of a lead, winning in 3:17.43. The Orioles were second in 3:18.21.

“At the 75 (yard mark) I was really catching up,” Laclair said. “I put everything into it.”

Whitcomb couldn’t throw everything he had into his butterfly because of a shoulder injury he’s been managing for a while. He took second in 51.45.

“I’m still trying to improve in my other strokes,” Whitcomb said. “I went a huge best time in my fly, which was good.”

Northampton junior Quinn Nortonsmith also posted two best times. He took third in the 50 freestyle in 21.66 seconds and fifth in the 100 breaststroke in 1:00.01.

Belchertown freshman Christopher Chumbley reached the podium in his first state championships meet, taking third in the 200 individual medley in 2:00.72. He just edged Amherst Regional’s Noah Labich, who was fourth in 2:02.11.

Belchertown took fourth as a team, while Northampton was fifth. Wayland won the team title, ending a six-year run by Weston.

Brashear soars to silver

Amherst diver Luca Brashear left the state championships last season frustrated with fifth.

This year, as a junior, he followed up his runner-up finish at Western Mass. with a second-place medal at states behind Monson’s Connor Pennington, who won his third straight state title with 609.55 points. Brashear scored 543.7 points.

“Out of my 11 dives, I messed up like one or two,” Brashear said. “I’m a lot more satisfied with my diving.”

Brashear still has one more season to improve. He plans to upgrade his list to two and a half flips and throw something special for his twister.

“That just raises my (degree of difficulty) to another level,” Brashear said.

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