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Framingham again lines up its ducks

Framingham’s swimmers were given T-shirts before the conference meet. Framingham’s swimmers were given T-shirts before the conference meet.
By Lenny Megliola
Globe Correspondent / November 13, 2011

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Memo to the varsity girls’ swim teams at Needham and Walpole:

Blame the duckies.

During the regular season, the Framingham High girls finished 8-2, losing only to Bay State Conference foes Needham and Walpole.

Before the conference meet last Sunday at Wellesley College, Framingham coach Mike Foley was seeking something to give his girls a boost against their conference rivals.

And that’s when Foley uncorked a story about a little duck.

“The duck was real scared to go out in the world to swim and walk,’’ the story went, as recapped by Foley later. “When he finds out he can do it alone, he realizes he had it in him all the time.’’

Cute, huh?

The duck story became the Flyers’ anthem, and Foley bought his team duck-emblazoned T-shirts. On the back, the wording circling the duck reads: “If you don’t try you’ll never know . . . just how far you can go!’’

Below that: No. 8.

Framingham won the conference meet for the eighth straight time.

Duckie power.

The Flyers racked up 533 points, and Walpole 435 to finish second. Needham, which had handed a Foley-coached squad its worst loss in his eight years at Framingham, was third with 345.

After the two losses, Foley recalled, he gathered his troops and told them, “OK, we’re just going to grind it out and see if we can get these guys at the conference meet. Our goals are always to swim and dive at our best at the end of the season.’’

This afternoon, the Flyers will be at Harvard, competing in the Division 1 South sectional meet. The All-State meet is next weekend at MIT.

“I knew we were going to be a very strong team,’’ said senior captain Alex Pan, a four-year varsity swimmer. “We didn’t lose a lot of swimmers’’ to graduation last spring, Pan said, “and we had some good freshmen coming in. By the end of the season I think we were at our best. We always swim well in the conference meet. We were all excited. There was a lot of adrenaline involved.’’

Pan swam the medley relay, along with three freestyles, the 50, 100, and 200 relay.

Sophomore McKenzie Connors turned in her personal-best backstroke, 1:08, at the conference meet, finishing 10th and picking up seven points for the team.

“It was crazy,’’ she said. Connors didn’t compete in the meet as a freshman. “I knew a lot was expected of me this time.’’

Connors began swimming in a town Parks and Recreation Department program.

“I had older friends who encouraged me to try out for the high school team. They said they had a really good coach.’’

A tight bond has developed on the team.

“We’re like a big family,’’ said Connors, who swims year-round now. “I love it.’’

But she makes time to get involved with community service, working day care at the local YMCA. “It’s a big part of my life,’’ she said.

Junior Grace O’Donnell took a second in the 200 freestyle and a fifth in the 500 freestyle at the conference meet. “I thought we had a really strong team,’’ said O’Donnell. “We have so much spirit and worked hard all season. All the energy we had made us better.’’

Foley concedes that he is still “shocked how fast some of our kids swam’’ at the Bay State Conference meet.

“Around mid-October some of the younger kids started performing at a different level. They got it in their heads you can go that fast. Things started falling in for them. And for the team.’’

Foley was nervous at the meet.

His assistant coach, Jerry Moss, “helped calm me down,’’ Foley said. “You just want the girls to do better than they’ve ever done.’’

Foley is a “really a good coach,’’ said O’Donnell. “He’s intense. He makes practices hard, so we go hard in meets.’’

O’Donnell was steered to the pool by her older sister, who also swam for Framingham High. “I decided to give it a try.’’ She’s been swimming since second grade.

Though Framingham was the seven-time defending champion, Needham and Walpole were not lacking confidence entering the meet, feeling that the Flyers could be grounded.

“Winning made it that much better,’’ said senior captain Carly Biron, who registered a personal-best (58.97) in winning the 100 breaststroke. “I was excited about that, because I want to swim the 100-breaststroke in college.’’

She also took a second in the 50 freestyle and was part of the meet-record-setting medley relay, the final event.

“Perfect way to end it,’’ said Biron.

When she finds some downtime, Biron usually goes out for a run or settles into a musical state of mind. “I love singing and playing the guitar,’’ she said.

As for Foley, it’s all about coaching.

In the winter he coaches the Wayland High boys’ and girls’ swim teams. In the summer, you can see him instructing at the Wayland Swim & Tennis Club. His son Brady, 5, is already a pool regular. Another son, Ryan, is next.

Foley’s father, Pete, was one of the most successful high school swim coaches in the country in his years at Weston High, where he coached Mike, even though the family lived in Framingham. He attended Weston because his father, also the athletic director, worked at the high school.

“He wanted to swim for his father,’’ said Pete’s wife, Marilyn. Mike swam for his college team at Central Connecticut. “I don’t think he was thinking about being a teacher-coach back then,’’ she said.

But Mike Foley had been duly, and irreversibly, swayed by his father.

Turned out to be a beautiful thing.

Lenny Megliola can be reached at