Sunday, March 9, 2014
By Gary Hawkins firstname.lastname@example.org
It's been more than 30 years since Jay Morissette swam for Hall-Dale High School and the Kennebec Valley YMCA. But many of the records he set back then still stand.
More impressive is the fact Morissette still holds records in the 50 and 100-yard freestyle events at the University of Maine, set in the early 1980s. Those feats alone would merit Morissette's induction into the Maine Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame. But his contributions to the sport go much further.
Morissette embarked on a coaching career with the Bath YMCA/Long Reach Swim Club after graduating from college and has guided the team to 25 state championships, including 23 straight dating back to 1991.
"You can't argue with the success of his programs," Cony swim coach Jon Millett said. "He's had many of his swimmers go on and become Division I swimmers in college."
Millett competed with and against Morissette at the Kennebec Valley Y and was a freshman on the Maine swim team when Morissette was a senior.
"Arguably he's one of the greatest sprinters ever to come from this state," Millett said.
Morissette will be inducted into the Maine Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame on May 4 at the Green Ladle Culinary Arts School in Lewiston along with Falmouth High School diver Katie Mailman.
Morissette still holds senior age group KV YMCA records in the 50 (22.40 seconds), 100 (49.10) and 200 (1:49.20). At Maine, those times dropped to 21.03 in the 50 and 46.22 in the 100.
"I had a good senior year," he said.
Morissette competed in masters swim meets at one time, placing as high as second in the 1989 national meet in the 50 free. But it's his coaching career which makes him the proudest. He's coached two Y national champions, Abbie King and James Wells, to a total of seven individual titles. Wells, a Morse High School graduate, is currently a top-seeded backstroke specialist at Indiana University.
"We've been able every year to reload rather than rebuild," he said.
Morissette said he's most proud of becoming a Level 5 YMCA coach, one of only 35 in the country. To reach that level a coach must have a certain number of all-American's. Morissette has coached over 30 in his career and more than 100 swimmers who have placed among the top 10 in the YMCA nationals.
He still has fond memories of his early coaches, Bob Randall at Hall-Dale and Ann Polozzi at the KV YMCA. Polozzi encouraged Morissette to take a year locally in school after high school and to continue his swimming career.
"She helped me get into college," Morissette said. "I wasn't the greatest student and I wasn't the fastest swimmer."
Morissette is writing a history of Maine Swimming and Diving which he said is 95 percent finished. He interviewed dozens of swimmers, including Gordon Sellick, who swam at Portland High School in the 1950s and lived in Readfield until his death in 2012. Sellick at one time held seven national high school records and was one of the first swimmers in the world to break 50 seconds for the 100 freestyle.
"I would put Gordon Sellick next to Ian Crocker," Morissette said of the Olympic gold medalist from Portland.
Sellick qualified for the Olympic trials but couldn't afford the trip to get to them.
"I interviewed a lot of old-timers," Morissette said. "It was so cool hearing their stories. I realized much of the history of Maine swimming was being lost."
Gary Hawkins -- 621-5638