By Trevor Hass, Sports Editor/Reporter
Heading into the final race of the state championship – the race that would either cement the Dragons’ legacy or crush their dreams – Duxbury head coach Elizabeth Walsh gathered her swimmers together and told them exactly what was at stake.
She didn’t hold back. She gave her best pep talk, knowing that it would inspire them rather than frighten them.
“This is awesome,” Walsh told her 400 relay team. “You guys started this together, and now you end it together. It’s within your grasp. It’s yours to take. You can win the first state championship in Duxbury history.”
The team of Mary Buckley, Anna Jamieson, Julia Ali and Grace Ali did just that, smashing the competition en route to a 400 win and a state title. Duxbury finished with 250 points, just ahead of Weston at 242. The two teams were tied heading into the final event, but the Dragons took home the Division 2 title in thrilling fashion at Boston University on Saturday night.
“We’re all really good under pressure,” the senior Buckley said. “We were really confident going in that this (400) team right here is unstoppable.”
Once it was over, and the dream was complete, they danced on the pool deck and hugged one another tightly. Then they pranced over to the MIAA banner and grinned as they hoisted their new state champion trophy in the air.
But the celebration wasn’t done quite yet. There was one more integral step. The Dragons all jumped into the water and frolicked as a team, including Walsh with her shoes on.
“These girls are absolutely unbelievable,” said Walsh, still drenched as she spoke minutes later. “They deserve it. They really do. It’s still sinking in.”
The night began the same way it ended, with the fearsome foursome of Buckley, Ali, Jamieson and Ali dominating a medley relay. This time it was the 200, and the Dragons set a state record, winning the event and taking an early lead.
Buckley took second in the 200 individual medley and Jamieson captured second in the 50 free, but Marblehead led through three events. Grace Ali helped put the Dragons back in front by shattering the competition in the 100 fly and the 100 free.
Julia Ali (3rd), Mary Tonaszuck (15th) and Maya Zukowski (17th) impressed in the 500 free, then Julia came in second and Jamieson sixth in the 100 back.
The Dragons still led, but they needed a championship performance from one of their top swimmers to stay in front. Just like she has her entire career, Buckley delivered, breaking the state record in the 100 breast.
“Usually, when you’re racing Mary Buckley it’s a race for second,” Walsh said. “She’s unstoppable.”
“It’s pretty indescribable,” Buckley added. “I knew I could get that record, but to actually be able to do it was great.”
But the night wasn’t over quite yet. Freshman Grace Zimmer helped the Dragons pick up some key diving points, but Weston hung around and was tied with Duxbury heading into the final event.
Moments before the 400 relay took place, the swimmers tried to stay loose any way they could during the extra long break. Everyone started singing Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.,” and the Dragons danced along like they were at a party instead of about to clinch a state title.
When their turn finally came, they knew exactly what was at stake and they delivered. Buckley gave them a significant early lead, Jamieson kept it and Julia Ali distanced the Dragons from the pack even further.
“We knew that we had it, so to control those emotions until Grace was done swimming was so hard,” Jamieson said.
But they had waited years, so they could wait a few seconds longer. When Grace reached the finish, the medley team jumped for joy and their teammates zipped around the deck in ecstasy and sobbed tears of joy as they celebrated.
Their hard work paid off in the sweetest way possible. For the first time in school history – girls or boys – the state swim and dive title belongs to Duxbury. And there’s a very good chance it could remain there next year, as Buckley, the Alis and several other strong swimmers return.
“It was our goal in the beginning of the season to be state champs,” Grace Ali said. “Now it happened, and it’s pretty amazing.”
They said late Saturday night it hadn’t really hit them quite yet, but they expected it would soon. With everything on the line, they delivered.
“It’s the best feeling ever,” Walsh said. “These girls have written Duxbury history.”