BY GAYLE SIMONE, valley dispatch staff
METHUEN — Laura Moriarity was a freshman, in her first competitive swimming meet, when she broke Methuen High School’s records for the individual medley and butterfly.
“I was pretty nervous, my first meet,” Moriarity said. “I was just trying to get used to them, but it was a good way to start.”
Moriarity went on to break the record for the breaststroke that same season.
Now a sophomore, Moriarity has broken her own records in all three events and now holds eight out of the nine Methuen individual records. Diving is the only individual mark held by someone, Meghan Kijanka, while two out of three relay records don’t include her yet.
She swims the 100-meter butterfly in 58 seconds, the 100-yard breaststroke in a 1 minute, 5 seconds and the individual medley — which consists of the breaststroke, butterfly, backstroke and freestyle — in 2 minutes, 10 seconds.
Those records earned Moriarity a spot in the North Sectionals and State Meet on Nov. 13 and Nov. 20 respectively, where she finished first in the 100 breaststroke and second in the 100 butterfly, finishing second to Andover’s Caitlin Doherty in both meets.
“It felt really good (to win the breaststroke races),” Moriarity said. “I was really nervous because during the regular season I only swam it three times. I was really happy with my times.”
Jason Smith, Methuen’s swimming head coach, said that although Moriarity’s strongest race is the breaststroke, he elected to have her swim in other events to help out the team and that she actually qualified for every event in the state meet.
“Throughout the regular season, I needed Laura to swim in different places,” Smith said. “We are very strong in the breaststroke, and she is obviously by far the tops in the state. But because we are so strong in the breaststroke, I needed her to swim elsewhere, such as the 200 (individual medley) or the 200 free (style) and we needed her a lot in the butterfly this year so she would swim in those instead of swimming the breaststroke.”
Moriarity may hold most of Methuen’s swimming records, but she is focusing on a record that is within her reach next season.
“In the breaststroke this year she is .38 seconds away from the state record,” Smith said.
The coach added that Moriarity is a one-of-a-kind athlete, not just because of her swimming versatility.
“Besides her natural talent, she is a true team player,” Smith said. “From stretching to cheering on her teammates, she is a coach’s dream.
“Athletes like (Laura) don’t come along every day. You’re lucky to have one during your career. I feel so lucky to have her on my team.”
Methuen this year went 6-6 overall in dual meets, but won the Merrimack Valley Conference Division II championship for the second straight season, along with capturing the League Meet championship title for the first time.
“We saw Billerica celebrating the victory last year,” Smith said. “We wanted to be on the other side of the victory this year.”
Moriarity echoed her coach’s thoughts.
“The celebration was worth all the hard work,” Moriarity said. “It was great sending the seniors (out) with the win.”
Moriarity seems humbled by her success and knows this is a team effort.
“I can’t win the meets alone,” Moriarity said. “We wouldn’t have won without the freshmen or seniors. I care much more about this team; everybody’s worked so hard.”
Because of his team’s success, Smith earned MVC II Coach of the Year.
Smith added that Moriarity was more thrilled about winning as a team than she was when she broke Methuen’s records.
“She was more excited than when she wan the state breaststroke last year.”
Along with her individual success at Methuen and winning two MVC championships, Moriarity can also boast about being named MVC II Swimmer of the Year for the second straight season.
Moriarity gets support from home also.
Her parents, Jim and Carla, and her brother, Jimmy, go to all of her meets to support her.
“We’re very proud of her,” Moriarity’s mother said. “And not just because she’s a great swimmer, but because she truly is a great kid and a team player.”
Carla Moriarity appreciates the hard work Smith has put into helping her daughter succeed.
“We really love coach Smith,” Carla Moriarity said. “He has been such a great, positive influence on our daughter.”
Smith, who has been coaching Methuen for three years, has come a long way from his initial 2-8 overall.
“Because the program has been so successful over the past couple of years, we’ve had to actually make cuts during tryouts,” Smith said. “I think that is a testament to the girls’ hard work.”
At the state meet, Methuen finished fifth in the 200 medley relay, while Meghan Kijanka finished fourth in one-meter diving. Methuen, as a team, placed seventh out of 22 teams, up from ninth the previous year.
Methuen also received the MIAA’s Sportmanship Award.