'Cats fall short in try to repeat.


Byline: Jay Gearan

BOSTON - You're about to read a rare story. Yesterday, for only the second time since 1994, the Gardner High girls' swimming team did not win the state championship.

Lincoln-Sudbury, the state champion two years ago when it snapped Gardner's streak of 15 consecutive titles, emerged as the top Division 1 team at Harvard University with 195 points.

The defending champion Wildcats, finished fourth with 124-1/2 points, behind runner-up Westford Academy (181-1/2) and Concord-Carlisle (127).

After the first six events - led by sophomore Taylor Strachan's win in the 100-yard butterfly and second in the 200 individual medley - Gardner led Westford by two points and Lincoln-Sudbury by five.

But the Wildcats didn't have enough depth over the final six events.

Strachan, unable to practice for two days because the flu, recovered in time to excel and even earn All-America qualifying times. The flu bug, which spread through the team, kept coach Don Lemieux from directing practice for a few days.

Gardner junior captain Katie Cornetta, however, did not feel well enough to make the trip to Harvard, and her absence left a big gap in the Wildcats' roster.

Cornetta, a talented sprinter, was expected to compete strongly in the 50 and 100 freestyle events, plus the 200 individual medley and 400 freestyle relay.

In yesterday's 200 medley relay, the Wildcats finished third with Strachan, Sarah Robertson, Emily Parillo and Ivy Durepo.

"I was very happy with the attitude of the kids who came here and really stepped up," Lemieux said. "Our captain and lead sprinter was not here, and that shocked all of us."

Durepo, a sophomore, earned valuable points with her third-place finish in the 50 freestyle, finishing in 24.87 seconds.

Strachan repeated as 100 butterfly champion in 56.23. Parillo, a freshman, placed fourth in 59.79...

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