The 50 freestyle is the most exciting and nerve-wracking of all the swim races.
There’s no time for recovery from a bad start, or room to make up ground if you have even the slightest hiccup.
The starter’s gun goes off, and the race is over before spectators can even finish their first cheer. It’s an eye-blink of a sporting competition, with hundredths of a second making the difference between glory and agony.
And Natalie Wu loves it.
The sophomore from Herricks excels at the fast race, and showed her chops at the sprint with an impressive win in the event, clocking a 24.29 at the Nassau County meet at the Nassau County Aquatic Center in East Meadow on Nov. 1.
“I felt like I had it but you really have no idea, because everyone is going so fast and you don’t know where everyone is (that you’re competing against),” Wu said. “Before the race I wasn’t sure if I would win, but when I touched first, it was really really exciting.”
Wu’s victory in the 50 free catapulted her into the New York State meet on Nov. 17 upstate in Webster, and her fourth-place finish in the 100 fly (57.57) also sent her there.
Wu’s performances were just a couple of the outstanding efforts from area swimmers and divers at the county meet; Herricks teammate Kayra Patan nabbed a third place in the 100 breaststroke, in 1:07.53.
For Manhasset, a host of swimmers and one exceptional diver had great outings.
Sophomore Samantha Anderson finished second both in the 500 freestyle (4:59.65) and the 200 free (1:53.27).
“She’s a tremendous competitor and very versatile; she’ll swim whatever we ask her to do,” said Manhasset head coach Matthew McGrane.
Manhasset also grabbed first place in two relays, the 200-yard medley relay (1:49.34) and the 200 free relay (1.:40.56).
In both races it was the quartet of Anderson, Shannon Reddington, Briana Racanello and Megan Koek grabbing the title.
Raconello also placed second in the 100 fly (57.01) and third in the 200 IM (2:07.02), while Reddington was fourth in the 100 breaststroke (1:07.84).
“Briana has been a big part of all our success, and she always seems to swim her best at the biggest meets,” McGrane said. “She’s just one of those kids who always meets the big moment and swims well when the stakes are highest.”
From the diving competition, Manhasset superstar Victoria Wang, who placed second in the state last year, did not compete this year, as McGrane said she’s training for the 2024 U.S. Olympic trials.
But it looks like there’s another great diver in the pipeline, as eighth-grader Adeline Chen finished second at counties, with a score of 455.60.
“We knew she was strong having seen her on the idle school team (last year), but she was even better,” McGrane said.
For Great Neck South, Kaityn Liu was the top performer at counties; the senior took second place in the 200 IM (2:06.47) and third in the 100 fly (.57.03).
“I was really happy with my times, but not quite as happy with my places,” Liu said with a chuckle. “But there are a lot of great swimmers and I knew it would be hard to win.”
Liu will be at states for the fourth straight time, and said her goal is to get a Top 10 at that meet for the first time.
The Great Neck South 400 free relay team of Liu, Kejin Huang, Sydney Dong and Kaylee Chan grabbed third place in 3:51.24, but their time wasn’t quite fast enough to qualify for states.