There was no other option.
Leading by a precarious six points, the Reading High boys’ swim team needed a win in the final event against perennial power Lexington last week to claim its first Middlesex League regular-season title.
Senior captain Connor Daly was the anchor for the last race, the 400-meter freestyle relay.
“I talked to Connor before the race,’’ said the team’s coach, Ken Holbrook. “And he said to me, ‘This is my last meet of my senior season. I didn’t come here to lose.’ ’’
Daly backed that up, rallying from nearly a body-length deficit in the final leg to capture the championship and put the Rockets in the history books.
For the first time in the program’s 23-year existence, Reading claimed sole ownership of the league title, finishing the dual meet season undefeated at 11-0.
The Rockets (362 points) backed that up at Monday’s league meet at Bentley, again outdistancing Lexington (321).
“I actually love being in a position like that where I’m down a little going into the last leg of a relay,’’ Daly said. “Each one of us caught a Lexington [swimmer]. We all just worked as hard as we could all year in preparation for those times, and hopefully the hard work pays off. It was the greatest feeling passing the Lexington swimmer on the last lap and hitting the wall. I loved getting the high fives from my teammates. It was awesome.’’
Senior captain Parker Traugot, who swam the third leg, has been on the team since eighth grade. “It’s crazy,’’ he said. “I’ve spent five years with Coach Holbrook, and it’s unbelievable that we finally did it.’’
The sense of accomplishment was not lost on junior Scott McGinty. “Just a great feeling,’’ he said. “Especially for Coach, who’s been here for 20 years.’’
Holbrook, who recently celebrated his 75th birthday, has been with the program since the start. He was part of a group of parents who tried, in vain initially, to get the program started, before his oldest daughter, Heather, graduated in 1987.
“We didn’t succeed,’’ said Holbrook. “And a couple of years later, five or six of my friends came to me and said, ‘Let’s try again.’ So we did and the first team in the school was the girls’ team in 1988 and the boys’ team started in the 1989-90 season.’’
The program went through early growing pains. Last year, though, Reading went 11-0-1 to share the league title with Lexington. But after the graduation of several swimmers, he was not sure what to expect this season.
Reading has 24 boys on the team, but 12 are newcomers.
“I thought we were going to be not quite as good this year as we were last year, but my guys thought differently,’’ Holbrook said. “But I just didn’t expect it to go this well, and we went 11-0. We’ve only had two close meets, one against Mystic Valley Charter and the one against Lexington the other night. . . . It shows the dedication of the kids.’’
Five swimmers - Daly, Traugot, McGinty, Nic Stevens, and Jerard Fredette - along with all three relay teams have qualified for the state meet. But, in winning the league title, Reading relied on younger swimmers, such as Stevens, a freshman.
“We knew we could win a lot of events,’’ McGinty said. “But it came down to the depth the team had getting the second, third, and fourth places. And really a lot of the sophomores, the new kids, stepped up big and were able to contribute in ways we didn’t really expect.’’
So it was fitting that their undefeated season was decided in the final event against their nemesis.
“All last year and this year we talked about how the goal of the season is to beat Lexington,’’ said Daly. “The guys who were on the team last year and this year knew what it felt like to walk away not winning. And we didn’t want that to happen again.’’