Keelyn Friberg has been here before. And the year before that and the year before that.
For the fourth consecutive year, the Shoreham-Wading River High School senior, competing as an independent swimmer, qualified for the Section XI Championships. That is a badge of honor for the girl who has been swimming for the Three Village Swim Club since she was a fifth-grader.
“You don’t see many people either stick with it for that many years or continue to get better and make the standards to get here,” Three Village Swim Club coach Mark Anderson said. “That, in of itself, is a great achievement.”
Friberg’s commitment and persistence once again brought her to Suffolk County’s grandest stage on Saturday morning: the pool at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood. She finished 16th in the 100-yard freestyle in a personal-record time of 57.15 seconds.
The 6-foot tall Friberg knows what it takes to get to the sectional meet. Daily three-hour practices are part of the routine.
“It takes a lot of effort to qualify, a lot of commitment,” said the soft-spoken Friberg, who didn’t say much during a prerace interview.
Two weeks ago, Friberg stepped over a lane line and her kneecap popped out of place. It didn’t keep her from swimming in Saturday’s big meet, though.
Anderson called Friberg “very quiet, talented and hard-working.”
“I think swimmers, they get a head up on the competition going through life because they’re so disciplined with the daily regimen,” he continued. “They’re up at 5 a.m. swimming when everyone else is sleeping, so they appreciate hard work. They know how to delegate time. They know how to time manage. Those are all things they take with them to college.”
Riverhead freshman Brianna Cybulski, another independent swimmer for the Three Village Swim Club, qualified for the sectional meet for the first time. Although Cybluski qualified in four events — the 200-yard individual medley, the 100 breaststroke, the 100 butterfly and the 500 freestyle — she didn’t get to compete. On Thursday evening she tripped and sprained ligaments in her right foot, forcing her to be a late scratch. Cybulski, moving with the aid of crutches, watched from the side.
In addition to Friberg, four other Shoreham girls swim for the Three Village Swim Club: senior Chloe Passamonte, senior Nichole Visintin, junior Katherine Opiela and junior Julianna Kohlus. Although Friberg was the only one of them to qualify for the sectional meet, Passamonte was present to cheer her on.
“She’s been swimming for a really long time and she does work hard and she just puts a lot of time and effort into everything and it means a lot to her,” Passamonte said of Friberg. “She likes the sport.”
Swimming independently has a different feel to it than being on a school team.
“The atmosphere at dual meets for schools that are able to field a team [is] energetic,” Anderson said. “I like it for that aspect. It’s kind of difficult being independent swimmers, but they are all in the same boat together. It’s a lot of self-motivation and self-work and telling yourself you can do it and staring at the bottom of a pool for two hours a day and find it interesting. This is what it’s all about. The competing part is where you get to see all the hard work pay off.”
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River High School senior Keelyn Friberg swam in her fourth straight Section XI Championships. (Credit: Bob Liepa)