On the night of March 1, Camden Hills senior swimmer Lianne McCluskey was doing homework when she received an unexpected phone call from her coach Scott Bowen. According to Bowen, he was on the verge of tears when he rang McCluskey to tell her the news.

The coach was not about to shed tears of sadness, but of great joy because he called to tell the hard-working Windjammer student-athlete she had been honored as the 2009-10 state Class B female swimmer of the year.

“I was speechless at first,” McCluskey said. “He surprised me. I had no idea that’s why he was calling.”

Even though McCluskey was astonished, one might have seen the award coming.

Looking back at her career, which started as a small child swimming lap after lap for the Camden Area YMCA Sailfish (now Penobscot Bay YMCA), it is no wonder McCluskey won the award in her final high school season.

She has paid her dues — and then some.

McCluskey has accomplished it all in swimming, from individual league and state championships to competing at a high level in New England high school meets and even at the YMCA Nationals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Even before receiving her recent recognition, McCluskey could have been called the proverbial flagship of the Windjammer swimming fleet. Take a glance at her accolades and you can see why.

First, she won the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly titles at both the recent state and Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B meets. In the recent New England championship meet, McCluskey was the runner-up in both those events, missing first by 100ths of seconds.

McCluskey also won the state 50 free her sophomore year before deciding not to compete in high school swimming her junior year.

This winter, she also was state runner-up as a member of the Windjammer 200 medley relay, along with teammates Ellery Chalmers, Margaux Scott and Emily Creamer, and won the 200 MR and 400 free relay at the KVAC meet with those same teammates. That foursome also excelled at the New England meet.

At the league and state championship meets, McCluskey not only won awards for her individual accomplishments, but also was named those meets’ top Class B performer.

Last year she was also selected in the USA Swimming League as a member of the 2008-2009 USA Swimming Scholastic American Team, an honor given for athletic and academic success. The award was only received by one other USA swimmer in Maine.

So when coach Bowen learned the news of McCluskey’s most recent honor, he admitted that although he was choked with joy, he was not shocked.

“[It’s] not really a total surprise,” he said. “She has worked so hard. You know she has done well in every meet. I could probably put her in any event and she would do very, very well at it. She is a very versatile swimmer. I mean, you ask her to swim anything and she will swim it.”

McCluskey is ecstatic about the award. “I’m just so excited, it’s hard to explain how I feel,” she said. “The pieces are all falling into place. Having this title is quite an honor for me; I never even thought about what it would be like to be swimmer of the year.”

Bowen, who nominated McCluskey for the honor, has known her for 12 years since “she was knee high to a grasshopper” and thinks she is not only a talented swimmer but a dedicated athlete.

“She is an incredibly hard worker,” he said. “She has got the greatest work ethic of anybody.”

The coach went on to say that he hopes her dedication will set an example for others and that her work ethic is what made her stand apart from other candidates for the prestigious state award.

McCluskey does not take the credit alone though. She especially wanted to thank coach Bowen as well as Sailfish coach Hodding Carter.

She also thanked her parents, John and Mary. “If it wasn’t for them driving me to practices and meets for the past 13 years, and motivating me to do my best, I wouldn’t have accomplished what I have,” she said.

While her high school swim career is essentially over, McCluskey will continue to dive into the pool for the Penobscot Bay YMCA Sailfish, a team she has been a member of for nearly 15 years. And next year she plans to swim at Denison University in Granville, Ohio. Most recently, the Division III school was ranked third in the country and McCluskey said she is excited about attending the school to swim.

McCluskey’s talent and dedication — year after year and season after season — have led the way to success for the young athlete. Bowen said that is just the way it works in the swimming world.

“I’ve always said you get out of swimming what you put into it,” he said. “If you don’t put anything into it you are not going to get anything out of it. So, as a result of her putting every effort possible into her swimming, look where she has gone.”

Village NetMedia Sports Reporter Frederick Freudenberger can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at fritz@villagesoup.com.