BAR HARBOR — Coaching transitions are never easy, especially when the outgoing coach is a program icon.
On Oct. 8, the Mount Desert Island High School swim team bid farewell to its head coach of 19 years, Tony DeMuro. DeMuro, whose 11 state championships at MDI include the past two Class B boys’ titles, left the post to become the new head men’s and women’s swim coach at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine.
But the Trojans will still have a familiar coach at the helm in 2019-20, because one of DeMuro’s longtime assistants, David Blaney, has taken the reins.
“Understanding the change is hard, but I think the transition has been easier for the kids because it’s me moving into Tony’s spot,” Blaney said. “With any change, you’re going to have to rip the Band-Aid off and then settle in, but the transition would be a lot tougher on them if it were someone from out of state who didn’t know the program.”
Blaney, who graduated from MDI in 1997, competed on the swim, football and tennis teams in high school. He went on to attend Bates College, where he was an All-New England Small College Athletic Conference swimmer during each of his four years.
Between his success as an MDI swimmer and his 12 years as an assistant under DeMuro, Blaney knows the ins and outs of program he’s inheriting. He’ll also have a remarkably strong roster at his disposal with the Trojans having graduated just four boys’ swimmers and one girls’ swimmer from last year’s roster.
“We have 48 athletes, three of which are just divers, and I think that’s the most we’ve ever had,” Blaney said. “With the kids we have and the expectations we have, we’re hoping to do very well.”
On the boys’ side, MDI returns a strong group of swimmers that includes Tyler Willis, last year’s state runner-up in the 100-yard butterfly, Tyler Woodworth, who took third in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles, and Amos Price, the fourth-place finisher in the 200-yard freestyle. The Trojans also bring back Sam Mitchell, who was the Penobscot Valley Conference champion and state runner-up last year in the 1-meter dive.
For the MDI girls, only Anna Naggert has graduated from the squad that placed third of 21 teams at last year’s state championships. The Trojans’ returnees include Adria Horton, the reigning PVC champion in the 500-yard freestyle, and Ruby Brown, Maria Saltysiak and Addy Smith, strong individual and relay swimmers.
“We have a lot of depth in our girls’ program,” Blaney said. “We have a lot of our experienced swimmers back, and we also have a lot of [incoming] freshmen. It’ll be exciting to see where they go.”
Promoting from within the program was also appealing to MDI’s athletic director, Bunky Dow. Dow cited the prospect of a “smooth transition” and Blaney’s strong understanding of MDI’s swimming traditions upon appointing him head coach Oct. 23.
“Coach Blaney brings a wealth of swimming knowledge and experience to our swimming program,” Dow said. “[His] passion and enthusiasm for the sport of swimming is contagious. Our student-athletes are fortunate to have him as their head coach.”
MDI divers will begin their season at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, against John Bapst at the Bangor YMCA, and swimmers will take on Bangor, Ellsworth and Hampden Academy in the Ram Invitational at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, at Husson University. With such a potent team under his mentorship, the early meets will provide Blaney’s Trojans with a chance to hit their stride early.
“My job is to make sure we see developments on all levels,” Blaney said. “You want to see that growth and development from the new swimmers in Lane 6 to the kids who’ve been doing this since they were six or seven years old, and my goal is to get that out of them.”