FORT COLLINS, Co. — No matter the time or place, it’s impossible to keep Liam Sullivan out of the pool.
From a young age, the Bar Harbor native fell in love with the sport of swimming. Even before Sullivan began doing it competitively in second grade, he knew swimming was going to shape his life forever.
“There weren’t really any swimmers in my family, and I had to beg my mom to let me do it because it was such a big social thing,” Sullivan said. “I’ve always loved being in the water and being in the pool, and when I got old enough for sports, swimming was the No. 1 thing on my mind.”
Nearly nine years later, Sullivan, a junior in high school, is swimming more than ever before. Since that day, his love for the sport has taken him on a journey from eastern Maine to a new setting, one over 2,000 miles away from home.
In August, Sullivan, who has spent years swimming for Mount Desert Island High School and the MDI YMCA Sharks, decided to spend a semester away from Bar Harbor to hone his skills in a different environment. That decision brought him to the mountains of Colorado, where he’s temporarily competing for the Fort Collins Area Swim Team.
“I’d been thinking about studying abroad or trying something new for a while, and I was looking into all sorts of different options,” Sullivan said. “I have some family friends [in Fort Collins] who let me stay with them and had been talking about spending a summer or two out here. It was an opportunity I knew would work out well.”
At first, adjusting to Colorado wasn’t easy for Sullivan. It’s not just swimming at an elevation 5,000 feet higher and adjusting to life at Rocky Mountain High School, which has four times as many students as MDI. Sullivan also has increased his training workload by 10 hours per week.
“It’s definitely taken some getting used to,” Sullivan said. “I’m doing a lot more dry-land training — weights, conditioning and those sorts of things. It’s very intense, but I’ve gotten the hang of it and am getting better every day.”
Sullivan already has claimed numerous accolades for the Trojans and Sharks at the team and individual levels. In addition to winning state titles in the 100-meter breaststroke in February and the 200-meter IM each of the past two years, he also was one of just two swimmers in Maine to be named Scholastic All-American for USA Swimming. His name is all over the records boards at the MDI YMCA pool.
Although he’s just a junior, Sullivan already has plans to swim when he attends college. He isn’t sure where that will be, but he’s already discussed a few possible destinations with coaches and family members.
“I’m torn between D-III and D-I,” Sullivan said. “I’m not totally sure I see myself at a big-time program, but it’s hard to say. So far, it’s mostly been about the ball rolling in the recruiting process.”
Before that, though, Sullivan has more than two months left in Colorado and three semesters of swimming for MDI. Because Sullivan participated without registering as a full-time member and does not intend to swim for Rocky Mountain, he will be eligible to swim for the Trojans when he returns to Bar Harbor for the second semester.
When he does return, a loaded MDI team — the Trojans already have Jacob Mitchell, Herbie Shaw, Isaac Weaver, Lanvin Estacio, Amos Price and others returning — will get even better. The boys’ team placed fifth in last year’s Class B championship meet in Orono, and Sullivan said this group expects to be in the thick of the championship hunt come February.
“It’s fun out here, but I’m also excited to come back,” Sullivan said. “I wouldn’t have come out here [to Colorado] if it wasn’t a guarantee I’d be able to come back for the rest of the season. … I’m going to be back better than ever to help my team and my friends win.”