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Chloe Stepanek makes a splash swimming against Olympian

Commack/Northport's Chloe Stepanek on Oct 18, 2018.

Commack/Northport's Chloe Stepanek on Oct 18, 2018. Credit: Daniel De Mato

Winning state titles are great, but swimming in the same pool as an Olympian, well that’s another story.

Northport's Chloe Stepanek had that opportunity when she competed against five-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky on Nov. 30 at the 2018 U.S. Winter National Championships in Greensboro, N.C., just three weeks after capturing back-to-back state titles in two different events.

“The day before I swam in the preliminaries, I saw that Ledecky was swimming in the 400 free and wondered what it must be like for everybody to race against her,” Stepanek said. “Later that night, I looked at the psych sheet and saw that she was in lane four and I was in lane seven for our race. I said to myself ‘I guess I’m going to find out tomorrow.’”

Stepanek might not have won the 200-meter freestyle preliminary heat, but her time of 2:01.99 earned her a spot in the ‘B’ final.

Ledecky won the race in 1:56.63 and went on to win the ‘A’ final in 1:55.32.

“It was a fast heat and it was really motivating,” Stepanek said. “I got a best time out of it and I was really happy with that.”

Stepanek won the 'B' final that night in 2:02.14, the fastest time of any swimmer at the meet 18 years old and under.

At the end of the meet, an 18-and-under National Champion is crowned for each event. Stepanek didn't even realize she won until the following day.

“At first, I thought I didn’t get it because there was a girl that was 18 in the ‘A’ final, but since she was from another country, she couldn’t receive the award,” Stepanek said. “The next day they told me that I was getting a medal. Being that it was my first individual medal at a USA Swimming Championship Series meet, and the fact that it was a gold, is pretty cool.”

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