This is the time of year Wooster swimmers live for and they got off to a great start at the Northeast Athletic Conference Championship held at Perry High School.
Gracie Chelf and freshman diver Colleen Frantz led the way as the Generals head into the most important part of the season.
Chelf shot down the field to win the 50 free with a 23.75, nearly a second and a half ahead of her closest competition to set a new NEAC Meet record as she won the 100 free with a time of 52.58.
“Everything has to be perfect in the 50 from start to the turn and Gracie is constantly working on those things,” said General’s swim coach Chris Matthew. “It was so amazing to see her performance today. We talked earlier that the next six weeks will be the pinnacle of her swimming career before she goes to Cleveland State University.”
Looking ahead, Matthew’s knows the level of potential for its senior.
“I think her best dive of her career so far was in the 100 free as a sophomore in districts,” Matthew said. “That’s an event where she has a lot of potential and especially with her back-half speed.”
Frantz started it all by taking the dive title the night before when she stepped into the spotlight with senior standout diver Brooke Balas. She performed in her first 11 dives, earning her coach’s credit by achieving a score of 355.9 while also incorporating two new dives into her routine.
“I was very nervous, especially on those two new dives,” said Frantz. “I just had to stay calm so as not to miss anything and I knew what I had to do. They all turned out pretty well and going out with all 5’s and 6’s definitely made me happy.”
As for the two new dives she’s added to her routine, Frantz performed one in the middle and the other on her last dive of the night.
“I have a winding dive that turns into a dive and then a reverse dive,” Frantz said. “To get both and do well in my first 11 dive competition gives me a lot of confidence and it felt really good. Now I hope I can do this well or better in the future.”
Frantz, who starred all season, picked the perfect moment for her breakout performance. Now the Generals have arguably one of the best 1-2 dive punches around with Balas and Frantz.
“Brooke has been so good to us all four of her years and now Colleen is going there to follow her as another talent,” said Matthew. “We’re looking forward to seeing Colleen progress as she’s really talented. One of her strengths is that she tiptoes out at the end of every dive and that’s a great trait to have. We were very proud of how she performed last night, she didn’t have one bad dive out of eleven.”
The generals kept up the suspense from Frantz’s big night through Saturday, taking home a total of six titles. In the full field, the Wooster girls finished third with a total of 360.
Gretchen Chelf flashed through the water to win the 500 free with a time of 5:20.13, more than a minute ahead of her closest competitor. The two Chelf sisters then teamed up to anchor a pair of relays that finished second. In the 200 free relay, Lillian Green and Olivia Frantz teamed up with the Chelf sisters for a time of 1:40.88 and in the 400 free time, Miley Green and Olivia paired with them for a time of 3:45.8.
“They are very solid relays and the 200 free relay is just a second off their record and they are still getting better,” said Matthew. “Gretchen has the potential to get faster. Miley is a fairly new swimmer at this level but learning to train hard and focus. Lillian has been solid for three years and Olivia is so dependable and dependable.”
Matthew made sure Olivia got a lot of credit.
“Olivia has had a great career and we always know she will make it through. It’s so unusual to be so good at two sports, but she does it in volleyball and swimming. She’s just so versatile.”
The boys nearly won the NEAC, but finished in second place with a score of 385, despite leaving a few swimmers behind.
Senior Andrew Glasgow easily won the 100 butterfly with a time of 56.12 to lead the way for Wooster and added a third-place finish in the 200 IM. In the 200 free relay, he teamed up with Andrei Dordea, John Sibilia and Aiden Strand-Fox to win with a time of 1:31.4.
Divers Owen McConnell and Steven Fox helped with team points, finishing second and third respectively. The Generals boys added 12 top-four finishes on the day highlighted by Strand-Fox, who took third in the 50 Free and 100 Free.
Sibilia, who recently returned to competition, finished fourth in the 100 breaststroke. His efforts did not go unnoticed as Wooster swim coach Chris Matthew praised his fight and will to compete.
All in all, it was a weekend to build on for the generals, as they want to use it as a springboard for the future.
“It was a great day,” said Matthew. “Our divers got us off to a great start on Friday night and pretty much everyone set a personal best today. Our seniors crushed it and it was just an excellent day for everyone.
“These kids have had a great winter training and their hard work is paying off. We are looking forward to the OCC Championship and want to challenge Lexington. These kids will be ready.”