Leah Treglia was like an obsessed inventor, trying every permutation in the pool until she finally got it right. And when she did, the spoils were perfect and came in perpetuity. The Smithtown West sophomore, who swims on the Hauppauge-Smithtown girls team, wanted to perfect her underwater — the time at the beginning of a lap spent below the surface of the pool before coming up and swimming toward the finish.
"The more you go under water, the faster you’re going to be," Treglia said. "My goal was to see how far I could stay under water before I came up."
Through the tried and true method of trial and error, Tregila figured out that 10 kicks off the wall was the perfect number to swim the optimal 100-yard backstroke.
Not nine. Not 11. 10 — and only 10.
"When she pushes off the wall, her streamline under water is unmatched. It’s amazing," said Sean Montalvo, a Hauppauge-Smithtown coach who has coached Treglia in club swimming since she was seven years old. "Others are taking four, five, or six strokes before she even takes one. She’s so fast underwater. You’re faster when you’re swimming underwater, so she has the ability to stay underwater and hold her breath, which makes her faster than everybody else."
Treglia proved that three times over last Sunday when she won the 100-yard backstroke in an All-American consideration time of 55.45 seconds and the 100 butterfly in 56.73 seconds at the Suffolk girls swimming championships at Stony Brook University. Treglia was also on the 400 freestyle relay team that, along with MaryGrace Waring, Hailey Wilcox, and Sofia Burns, won in 3:38.17.
For her efforts, Treglia is Newsday’s Athlete of the Week.
Treglia was only 0.3 seconds off the backstroke county record, set by Olympian Julia Smit when she was at Mount Sinai in 2005. Treglia hopes to break that record next season.
Unlike most high school girls swimming seasons, this one took place in the beginning of the spring, which coincides with the crux of the club season. Girls swimming at the high school level is a fall sport but it was moved to March-April because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Treglia, who also competes on the club circuit as part of the Hauppauge Swim Club, said that the heavy workload of the two simultaneous seasons actually helped her times.
"I would [usually] be coming off of a two-week break in August," she said of the normal fall schedule. "Now, when the [high school] season started, I had already been swimming for months. Swimming right after consistently swimming helped me, since I was already in shape. I was focused and locked in and it helped."