COURTESY PHOTO | All six of Shoreham-Wading River’s swimmers improved on their times Saturday in the Section XI Championships. From left, top row: Rena Gabbia, Emily Anderson and Meghan Friberg; bottom row: Annie Loscalzo, Nichole Visintin and Keelyn Friberg.
Athletes play games in some sports. Swimmers work at their craft, and it’s hard work.
The members of the Shoreham-Wading River girls swimming team train six days a week, anywhere from two to three hours each day. That’s a lot of time in the pool. To help them get through the grueling workouts, some of the Wildcats solve math or word problems in their head. Emily Anderson prefers to count the yards she has swum or sing songs in her head.
“I think it’s pretty cool that they do that,” Shoreham-Wading River coach Joyce Brown said. “When they get in the car, they’re a bunch of chatterboxes, but when they’re in the pool, they’re very focused.”
There can be no arguing that what Anderson and her teammates are doing is working. All six of the Wildcats improved their times in the Section XI Championships on Saturday at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood, and Anderson qualified for the state meet for the second year in a row in the 100-yard breaststroke. After hitting the touchpad, the sophomore looked up at the scoreboard and saw a time she had never seen next to her name before: 1 minute 6.57 seconds. It was second only to the 1:05.03 clocked by Northport senior Nicole Papsco.
“I was kind of shocked,” said Anderson.
The performance qualified Anderson for both the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships that will be held Nov. 22 and 23 at Ithaca College as well as the junior nationals in Florida in March. Anderson’s time was also a record for her club team, the Three Village Swim Club. The club’s previous mark was 1:07.14.
“Emily definitely shines right now,” Brown said. “This is her time. She’s making a name for herself on a national level.”
Returning to the state meet gives Anderson a chance for redemption. In last year’s state meet, she finished 11th in the 100-yard breaststroke and was disappointed. So, there was a lot riding on Saturday’s race. “I had a lot of expectations to make it so I was really nervous going up to the blocks,” she said.
Shoreham junior Rena Gabbia was 18th in the race in 1:18.45.
Before Saturday, Anderson’s fastest time in the 100-yard breaststroke, her favorite event, was 1:06.78.
Anderson also turned in a personal-best time in the 200-yard individual medley final, finishing fifth in 2:15.96. She shaved 39/100ths of a second off her previous best time in that event. One of Anderson’s teammates, freshman Keelyn Friberg, was 19th in 2:31.54.
Meghan Friberg, a Shoreham senior, was 23rd in the 500-yard freestyle in 5:52.87. Two other Wildcats competed in that final, freshman Nichole Visintin (15th in 5:43.79) and sophomore Anna Loscalzo (32nd in 6:01.28).
In the team scoring, Shoreham ranked 16th among 26 teams with 33 points. Ward Melville was first with 361 1/2.
“It was a great way to end the season,” Brown said. “I’m so proud them. They swam well, they had fun. They all walked out of there with a smile on their face.”
Anderson, who swims 11 months out of the year, said some days after practice she is so sore that she cannot walk up a flight of stairs. But she said the hard work is worth it when it comes to getting the sort of results she saw on Saturday.
“At this level, this age, they have to” train like that, Brown said. “They have to swim. It’s the only way to get better.”
Brown said Anderson has “the physical tools, she’s got the mental tools, and she puts the time in. You can’t get better in this sport unless you put the time in. It’s a commitment. You got to love it or there’s no sense to doing it.”