Chelmsford High Sophomore on Rise
CHELMSFORD -- The Chelmsford High girls swim team has been pooling its talent for many years.
Under the direction of long-time head coach Harriet Kinnett the Lions’ program has been consistently overflowing with elite swimmers.
The latest Lion to plunge head first into the competition and keep pace with the fast company in the Merrimack Valley Conference is Laura Latham.
Latham made a big splash as a freshman last year and has continued to make waves this fall.
It didn’t take Latham long to get into the swim of things in her first varsity season. She placed second in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle at the Division 1 State Championship Meet and was named the MVC Division 2 Swimmer of the Year in 2017.
Latham has continued to rule the pool in 2018. At the North Sectional, this multi-talented sophomore finished first in the 100 butterfly (57.64), fourth in the 50 freestyle (24.90) and swam legs on the Lions’ 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relay teams that was third and sixth, respectively.
She will be competing in all four events at Sunday’s MIAA Division 1 State Championship Meet at Harvard University’s Blodgett Pool. The meet is scheduled to begin at 8:45 a.m. Latham is the No. 1 seed in the 100 butterfly.
“She’s very well rounded,” said Kinnett, who is in her 23rd season as Chelmsford’s head coach. “She’s not a diver, but I can put her in any other event and she does well. She has swum in every swimming event at some point this season and posted a state cut (time) in each of them.
“That’s rare. I’ve had swimmers who have been as fast as Laura, but not across the board in every event. You’re only allowed to swim in two (individual events) at states and then two relays. To have a qualifying time in every event, that’s a great accomplishment.”
Latham began swimming in grade school and it was evident early on she was fast beyond her years.
Upon her arrival at Chelmsford High, Kinnett knew Latham wasn’t your typical wet-behind-the-ears freshman. Latham quickly showed she possessed the stroke of genius needed to excel in numerous events.
When it comes to Chelmsford’s girls swimming records, Latham has posted the second fastest time in the 50 freestyle (24.65), third fastest time in the 100 butterfly (57.64) and sixth fastest time in the 100 freestyle (53.97).
“I knew she was strong coming in,” said Kinnett. “I had done my homework. She surpassed even my expectations last year. I think she even surprised herself with her performance.
“She’s very coachable. She’s very polite. She’s fun. You can communicate well with her. The girls love swimming with her. She’s a great teammate. She’s only a sophomore and she will continue to get better. She will be the delight of some college coach.”
During meets, Latham’s lane serves as an isolation chamber where she competes against the field -- and the clock.
Latham is in a constant race against time.
“My main priority each race is going against the clock,” said Latham. “To make states you have to get a specific time. That’s why time is so important. Winning is great, but my main priority is dropping time. If I do that, I have a good shot at doing well.
“I just go during a race. I want to swim as fast as I can. But there is more to it than just swimming well. There are a lot of mental parts to this sport. You have to combine the mental and physical aspects of the sport to succeed.”
Latham’s versatility helped Chelmsford finish the dual meet schedule with a 9-4 record while competing in MVC Division 1.
“Sometimes it’s hard going from one stroke and event to another,” said Latham. “You get better through a lot of repetition and coaching. I’m always working on my technique while trying to increase my speed. The coaches here are great. They know a lot about the sport.”
Latham, a high honors student, comes from an athletic family. Her older brother, Jimmy, is a senior on Chelmsford’s football team. Younger siblings, Catherine and Jack, are up-and-coming athletes. Latham’s mother, Lyn, and father, James, a former athlete at St. Joseph High School in Lowell, have provided lots of support and guidance.
“My family is always looking out for me,” said Latham. “I’ll have a huge crowd cheering me on at states.”
Chances are they’ll be hoarse by the time Latham finishes her final event.
“She’s one of the top five (swimmers I’ve coached), right now,” said Kinnett. “I’ve had state champions. I’ve had kids who have been to Olympic trials. She’s that good.”
And the best is yet to come.
Follow Carmine Frongillo on Twitter @cwfrongi