Junior Anna Doherty truly went great lengths this season to become the greatest 500-yard freestyler in Fenwick High School girls swimming and diving history.
“I did a lot of distance sets with [first-year head coach Ben Munster] and a lot of pacing,” Doherty said. “I swam up to 5,000, 6,000 yards a day sometimes and I think that really helped me improve. I also matured more as a swimmer, which I think helps.”
Doherty completed her improved season by finishing a first-team, all-state sixth in the 500 free (5:03.26) during the state finals at the FMC Natatorium in Westmont.
She also finished sixth in the 200 individual medley (personal-best 2:04.55) and contributed the butterfly leg to the 200 medley relay with junior Evelyn Mulvihill (backstroke), freshman Maggie Raniere (breast stroke) and senior Cailey Peele (free), which came in 12th (1:47.23) in the consolation finals.
Before Doherty, Fenwick’s only other 500 state finals finish was 12th by Veronica Gibson in 2011.
In Friday’s 500 preliminaries, Doherty swam the seventh fastest time (5:01.59) to break her 5:01.80 school record from sectionals.
“It was my first year [in finals] individually so I was really excited about that and although [Saturday’s 500] wasn’t the way I wanted to swim, I had an amazing IM,” Doherty said.
“It was really exciting to do the [200 medley final]. I am really proud of my teammates. We all worked really hard this season. My best friend Cailey, this was our last meet together so having a medal around our necks together is really great.”
Junior diver Viktoria Castillo, sophomore Claire Wood, and freshman Maeve Ryan also got state experience Friday. The 400 free relay of Mulvihill, Wood, Peele and Doherty had the 12th fastest preliminary time (season-best 3:32.38) for the consolation finals but was disqualified.
Peele and Alex Lefko were the only seniors in the Friars’ sectional lineup.
“I’m pretty pleased with the swims. Our relay improved and Anna in the IM. She got up one spot (in the 500 free too),” Munster said. “A lot of our team is young. To have those swimmers returning should make for a fun season next year.”
For the first time this year, the top 16 performances in preliminaries advanced to Saturday’s finals instead of 12. The top eight times competed for the state title. The other eight times competed for ninth.
Doherty previously reached in the 2021 state finals with the 10th-place 200 medley relay. She made significant improvements from 2022, finishing 15th at state in the 500 free (5:06.73) and 17th in the 200 IM (2:08.96).
“I think it’s a credit to her vision of how she sees herself as a swimmer and what she wants to accomplish,” Munster said.
“She sees herself as a swimmer who goes under 5:00 in the 500 freestyle and I think that’s the first part of it, believing that you can do it. She also backs it up in the technique to make it successful and the hard work to make it happen.”
Doherty handles the 500 free while competing in the maximum four events per meet.
“It’s a hard event, but I think once you swim it enough, you get used to it,” Doherty said.
At her third state meet, Peele advanced in four events but the 200 medley relay was her first final. Thanks to expanded finals, the Friars advanced with the No. 15 time (1:47.27) and then posted their second-fastest time Saturday.
“[Finals] was so fun. I’ve always wanted to place,” Peele said. “It was definitely a mix of emotion. I was so excited because we were in the finals but also so sad because it was my last race. Definitely my favorite relay.”
Among other Fenwick state entries who did not advance, the 200 free relay of Ryan, Raniere, Wood and Peele was 19th (1:37.69), Mulvihill (100 back in 57.83) was 20th, Peele (50 free in 24.77) was 35th and Mulvihill (100 free in 53.40) and Castillo (180.80 points) were 38th. OPRF High School junior Kate Welby was 29th in the 100 breast stroke (1:08.49).