You won’t often see two athletes from the same central Maine high school team excel as Division 1 athletes, but former Foxcroft Academy swimmers Cameron Fadley ’13 and Amber Murray ’12 have done just that.
While they’ve taken different paths to success, each has already set at least two school records in college careers that are far from finished.
Fadley was offered a nearly-full athletic scholarship to La Salle University after a masterful high school career that saw him smash every Foxcroft Academy record, win five state titles, and earn a Class B Swimmer of the Year award.
He has quickly established himself as one of the top swimmers in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
After a solid freshman campaign that concluded with an 11th-place finish in the 100-yard butterfly and a 14th-place finish in the 200-yard IM at the conference championships, the 6’2”, 175-pound sophomore took a massive step forward this year. In a career that has spanned 13 years, Fadley has always saved his best for last–actually swimming a personal best time in the final meet of every season–and that trend continued with a phenomenal performance at the Atlantic 10 Swimming Championships at the Spire Institute in Geneva, Ohio, over the course of February 18-21.
All he did at the biggest meet of his life was break two La Salle records, tie another, and post three second-place finishes against the conference’s best swimmers, leading the Explorers to a fourth-place finish.
He started things off on Thursday the 19th by swimming 1:49.23 in the 200-yard IM final, tying a La Salle record that had stood since 1986 and finishing only behind St. Bonaventure’s Michael White, who broke the A-10 conference record. A three-time high school state champion in the event, Fadley posted a time that was more than five seconds faster than his best at Foxcroft and was good enough to obtain an NCAA championship qualifying time.
He came back the next morning and promptly set the A-10 record in the preliminary round of the 100-yard butterfly before swimming even faster in the final, only to be edged by George Mason’s Travis Lauri by six-hundredths of a second. Fadley’s 47.92 broke a school record set in 2011 and was again good enough to make the NCAA cut time, but he admits that it was heartbreaking to be denied his first conference title.
“Losing by such a small margin just gives me extra motivation to work harder for next year,” he said. (And as the only non-senior to finish in the top five at the event, it wouldn’t be wise to bet against him reaching the top of the podium next season.)
Fadley capped his championship meet by swimming the butterfly leg of the 400-yard medley relay, helping the Explorers break yet another school record en route to a second-place finish behind St. Bonaventure.
For the Dover-Foxcroft native, who is as intense a competitor as you’ll find, it could have easily come crashing down in the spring of his sophomore year of high school, when the center fielder suffered a Grade 3 AC separation in his right shoulder just days after helping lead the Foxcroft baseball team to a 16-0 regular season.
He went under the knife a few weeks later and was told he may never swim competitively again.
Determined to beat the odds, Fadley began a grueling rehab process just one month after surgery, and five difficult months later he was medically cleared for the start of his junior swimming season. But getting back into the pool wasn’t easy.
“Not knowing how the season or the rest of my swimming career would go, I entered the season confused and scared,” he said.
What he didn’t count on was how much physically and mentally stronger he’d become. He quickly regained his form and would go on to win both the 200-yard IM and the 100-yard breaststroke at the Class B state championships, earning Swimmer of the Meet honors and shattering the school records he’d set as a sophomore–all while being less than nine months removed from major surgery.
“It turned out to be the best season of my life, and since then my swimming career has skyrocketed into something I never could have imagined.”
His rehabilitation prepared him well for a punishing La Salle training regiment that includes double sessions (6-7:30 am swim followed by 45 minutes of weight lifting and a two-hour practice in the afternoon followed by a 30-minute conditioning session) every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; a 150-minute practice every Tuesday and Thursday; and either a meet or a long practice every Saturday.
“It’s a huge time commitment between swimming and schoolwork,” said Fadley, who maintains a 3.3 GPA while pursuing a degree in Business Administration, “but I have an obligation to give my best to the swimming program.”
Fadley first gave swimming a try when he was six years old, mainly because his older siblings had shown an interest in the sport. His career may have never gotten off the ground had it not been for Cathy Murray and Lisa Clark, who worked with him from the time he entered the Dover-Foxcroft youth swimming program at age seven and encouraged him to enter his first competitive meet, the 8-and-under championships in Cape Elizabeth, the following year.
He began to make a name for himself in Maine swimming by winning the meet, narrowly defeating Jerry Gravel, who became a long-term rival, and, as fate would have it, is now his teammate at La Salle.
Murray and Clark knew they had a special swimmer on their hands and worked tirelessly to get the best out of him through the years.
“Coach Murray became involved with the youth swimming program around the same time I did, so we really grew together as swimmer and coach through the years,” said Fadley. “I owe so much to both her and to Coach Clark. They laid the foundation for my future success.”
The partnership with Murray continued all the way into high school, as she took over as head coach of the Foxcroft Academy boys’ and girls’ swimming teams his freshman year and held the post for three seasons.
She’s not the least bit surprised by Fadley’s breakthrough performance this season.
“Cameron has always been an exceptional athlete,” she said. “The potential was always there for him to be a D1 athlete. Now that’s he training specifically for one sport, it’s not surprising that he’s already breaking school records as a sophomore. He’s always been very dedicated, disciplined, and mature. I’m thrilled with his success. It’s awesome to watch, even from afar.”
While Fadley’s high school teams were always too shorthanded to contend at the state level, Cathy and her husband Dr. Tom Murray–who served as strategist and statistician–led the girls’ team to three straight top-six finishes at the Class B Swimming and Diving Championships, where the Ponies competed against as many as 40 schools, many of them considerably larger. She was named Class B Girls’ Swimming Coach of the Year in her final two seasons (2011 and 2012) before stepping down when her twin daughters, Amber and Ashley, finished their standout careers at Foxcroft.
While Ashley moved on to the Tyler School of Art at Temple University to pursue a BFA in graphic art and interactive design, Amber, who was an All-PVC First Team selection and the Class B state runner-up in the 100-yard backstroke all four years at Foxcroft, was not ready to step away from the pool.
“After high school I didn’t feel 100% satisfied with my swimming career,” said Amber. “I’d put so many years into it that I wanted to see if I could take the next step up.”
After enrolling at the University of Maine, where she’s earned a 3.57 GPA while pursuing a degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics, Amber was able to walk on to the swimming team. She concedes that the transition from small town Dover-Foxcroft to Division 1 swimming was not an easy one.
“I went from practicing two hours a day to four hours a day–including weekends, mornings, and lifting sessions,” she said.
But Amber’s hard work paid off in a big way at the end of her freshman campaign when she shocked everyone by shaving an incredible five seconds off her 100-yard backstroke time at the 2013 American East Swimming and Diving Championships.
“That was the moment when we knew she could compete as a D1 athlete,” said Cathy.
Amber admits that even after all the work she had put in, she never saw a breakout of that magnitude coming.
“Needless to say, no one expected it–including my coach and myself,” she said.
And she wasn’t done there.
At the conference championship meet the following season, she sliced another second off her time, swimming 57.84 to set the UMaine record in the 100 back and finish seventh in the conference. She also swam the backstroke leg for the 400-yard medley relay team, which established another school record.
It was at that point that Amber began to fully comprehend how far she had come.
“It really wasn’t until I broke the record my sophomore year that I believed I had improved so much,” she said.
The University of Maine rewarded Amber’s remarkable progress by offering her a partial athletic scholarship after the 2014 conference championship meet.
“To be offered a scholarship and recognized for all the effort I put in means more than words can express,” she said. “I’m so blessed to have a team and coaching staff that believes in my abilities.”
“Amber has a great attitude and is a hard worker in and out of the pool,” said UMaine swimming coach Susan Lizzotte. “She has everything that a coach wants. She gives 100% every practice, has a smile on her face and is a great teammate, and is a star in the classroom. All of these things led to her partial scholarship award.”
For Cathy Murray, who coached both Amber and Cameron for 12 years, it’s been incredible watching two of her finest swimmers achieve their dreams.
“It’s really cool that two kids from Foxcroft Academy are breaking collegiate records at the D1 level,” she said. “I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Amber and Cameron are just happy to repay the efforts of a coach who gave them so much.
“I owe my whole swimming career to my mom’s coaching,” said Amber. “I don’t think there would have been a high school team if she hadn’t stepped up to support me and our team back then. She knew how much swimming meant to me, and I can’t thank her enough for all the hours she put in to make sure FA had a team I was proud to swim for. She spent hours making practices and getting me ready for the craziness of college swimming. Because of all the time and effort she put in, I now get to live my dream as a D1 athlete, and I can’t thank her enough for that.”
“Coach Murray was always there for me, going way above and beyond what you would expect from a coach,” said Fadley, who remains friends with Amber and has kept a close eye on her career at UMaine.
“I continue to follow and cheer for Amber, knowing how long she’s been my teammate and friend,” he said. “It’s very rewarding to know a fellow swimmer from the same small-town program has had such a great amount of success outside of high school swimming.”
Fadley’s success has likewise been a source of pride for Amber.
“I have kept in touch with Cameron and his times since going to La Salle, and he has been phenomenal,” said Amber. “He’s always been a great swimmer and has skyrocketed in his short time there. I’m so proud to say that I swam for the same team as such a talented swimmer. It is only his second year with the team, and he is already making a huge impact in the A-10 conference. I don’t know how he could get any faster, but I can’t wait to see if he does.”
While both athletes concede that being a Division 1 athlete and a college student has been far from easy, neither would trade the experience for the world.
“I’m so happy I continued to push forward into college so I could finally reach my ultimate goals,” said Amber, who plans to pursue a master’s degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics and a career as a registered dietician.
“It has been a lifelong dream to swim at the collegiate level, ultimately helping pay for my education,” said Fadley, who is thinking about using his degree to one day take over his father Dana’s physician recruitment business. “After my injury it pushed me even harder to make that dream come true. I have formed friendships with teammates that will last a lifetime and couldn’t have asked for a better environment to have my collegiate swimming career in. It was the most important decision I ever made.”
We hope to summarize the accomplishments of other Foxcroft Academy alumni currently playing sports at the collegiate level in our upcoming spring alumni publication. Please email Mark at email@example.com if you have any information to share.