2017-12-08 / Sports Spotlight

Caldwell outkicks cancer, back in the pool

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer


Scarborough High School senior Megan Caldwell (second from left) was in and out of the pool last season as she fought a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. With the support of her teammates, including Jane Greenberg, Lilly Erickson and Tegan Tanner, Caldwell is feeling healthy this season and is eyeing qualifying for the state meet like she did freshman and sophomore year. (Michael Kelley photo) Scarborough High School senior Megan Caldwell (second from left) was in and out of the pool last season as she fought a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. With the support of her teammates, including Jane Greenberg, Lilly Erickson and Tegan Tanner, Caldwell is feeling healthy this season and is eyeing qualifying for the state meet like she did freshman and sophomore year. (Michael Kelley photo) Scarborough High School senior Megan Caldwell missed much of last season due to cancer, but is ready to hit the water this season cancer-free and stronger than ever.

In October 2016, Caldwell was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer and after surgery to remove the tumor, her doctor told her she wasn’t going to be back in the pool for awhile. That, however, wasn’t going to stop her from being part of the team, a group she calls her second family.

Caldwell, a Scarborough swim team member since freshman year, has been swimming competitively since fourth grade.

“I always liked being in the water. I tried all sort of other sports, but I wasn’t very good at it. But with swimming, it was something I could do and be good at,” she said.

Scarborough junior Jane Greenberg said Caldwell wasn’t away from the team for long. A week after surgery, she was back at the pool to watch practice and continued to do so between rounds of chemotherapy, which she started in mid-November

“It was stage 4, but it’s curable,” Caldwell said at practice Monday surrounded by Greenberg and fellow juniors Lilly Erickson and Tegan Tanner. “The chemotherapy cycle for it was pretty rigorous with several three-week cycles.”

By the second week of December, Caldwell was back in the water swimming 50 freestyle and worked the rest of the season, in between chemotherapy cycles, to make the state meet qualifying time in that race. She fell less than a half second short, but was able to compete in the state meet as part of the 200 freestyle relay.

Erickson said during Caldwell’s first race after her surgery, the entire team crowded at the end of the pool to cheer her on.

“When she finished, we all cried,” Greenberg said.

“Anytime she was able to make a practice, it just pumped the team up,” said head coach Eric French.

When Caldwell got sick, Erickson, Greenberg and Tanner didn’t see Caldwell as a teammate out of commission, but rather like a sister.

“It’s like a big family. We are all in this together,” Greenberg said.

“Even though this is an individual sport, it’s still like family,” Tanner added.

French said last year was a difficult one for the team.

“Last year was definitely hard, but at the same time, it bonded our team together more,” French said.

To promote unity and show Caldwell she was very much still in their thoughts, team members decided to redesign its annual team shirt to remove their names on the back and instead include a gold ribbon – to denote childhood cancer – in honor of Caldwell.

“We always go to bat for each other. With the help and support of the team, I think it made her situation easier to deal with and I think it helped her recover quicker,” French said.

French said he was impressed with the performance Caldwell was able to put in while fighting her cancer.

“She’s not a quitter and last year came close to states individually only being able to participate in minimal practices,” he said.

Tanner said throughout the whole ordeal Caldwell never complained about her situation and was always swims in and out of the pool.

Greenberg said it is “awesome” to have Caldwell back competing in the pool.

“Having her back has made such a difference. She is the captain. She showed us how lucky we all are just to be able to swim in practice,” Erickson said.

Now full healthy, French said he expects another strong swim season out of Caldwell and many of her teammates on the boys’ and girls’ squads, which include two promising freshmen Morgan Porter and Gavin McLeod.

French said this year’s 53 swimmers are a competitive bunch, who are eyeing state championship wins Feb. 19 and Feb. 20 at the University of Maine.

“These guys hate losing. They are competitive.

We win as a team and lose as a team. They understand that. If we lose a meet, but get three or four kids to qualify for states, I consider that a win. Even if we only get one kid qualify, that is one more we can bring to Orono in February,” French said.

While the swimmers are eyeing that state meet, the teams have several tough meets to get through first, including a Dec. 29 meet at Deering, a home quad-meet with Cape Elizabeth, Maine Girls Academy and Waynflete on Jan. 19 and a “tough group” of Cheverus swimmers in a Feb. 2 home meet.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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