After all Brianna Cybulski had done to qualify for the Section XI Swimming Championships for the first time, her appearance in street clothes last Saturday morning, moving about with the aid of crutches, was anticlimactic, to say the least.
Cybulski tripped and fell last Thursday evening, spraining ligaments in her right foot.
“I really don’t know,” she said. “I can’t describe it. One minute I was standing up straight and the next I was on the floor.”
So much for swimming in Saturday’s meet at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood, which the Riverhead High School freshman attended as a spectator.
“It’s like three years of hard work and then I get hurt, so I hope to get it next year again,” she said.
This is Cybulski’s third year swimming at the high school varsity level as an independent. She had qualified for the sectional championships in four events: the 500-yard freestyle (qualifying time of 5 minutes, 47.52 seconds), 100 breaststroke (1:17.95), 100 fly (1:08.12) and 200 individual medley (2:26.08).
Cybulski started swimming competitively when she was 9 years old. She competes for the Three Village Swim Club, which is coached by Mark Anderson.
“This is the first time that Riverhead has had an independent swimmer … at the county championships, which is great, getting the exposure out there,” Anderson said. “It’s what you want to see. You want to see the sport grow.”
Cybulski has put in her time. It’s a family affair, too, with her younger brother, Ethan, 12, also swimming for the Three Village Swim Club. It’s a huge commitment for the Cybulski family. Brianna swims six days a week, and for the past year twice a day for three days a week. She trains at Ward Melville High School and at the Holtsville Ecology Center in the summer.
“This is her second competitive team, and it’s the amount of time you put into it and what you put in is what you get out of it,” her father, Brian, said. “She’s doing great. As long as she keeps improving her times, that’s all we look for.”
Brianna’s mother, Kerry, said the exposure that comes with qualifying for the sectional meet is significant. “I couldn’t ask for more,” she said. “She’s a hard worker. She puts everything she has into it. It’s emotional, it is. Like, oh my God, she’s finally going to be put on the map after all the years of commitment, of nobody realizing what she’s actually doing behind the scenes.”
Lindsay Lindenbaum is Brianna’s supervisor. “I go to all of her meets with her, make sure she is in good standing, cheer her on, give her a little motivation if she needs it,” said Lindenbaum, wearing a “Riverhead Swimming” shirt. “I think she’s doing really well, I really do. From the beginning of our first few weeks together, with each meet, just times are getting faster and faster.”
Asked what the training is like, Brianna said: “It’s a lot of work, but you have to balance it. It’s not bad. Once you’re used to the swimming, it’s not as bad as everyone thinks it is. It still is a lot, going every morning, every night, but it’s swimming. You got to love it.”
Photo caption: Brianna Cybulski of Riverhead swimming the butterfly stroke in the pool. (Credit: courtesy photo).