When Denise Phelan jumped in the water at the start of the 100-yard breaststroke at the Suffolk girls swimming championships Sunday at Stony Brook University, she didn’t just feel confident, she felt something even better — speed.
"I just felt fast," said Phelan, who competes for the Northport-Commack team and attends Commack High School. "So, I knew it was going to be a good race. It just depended on what the time was going to be."
That time was pretty good, too. The quick feeling she had in the water was prophetic. Phelan won the event in an All-American time of 1 minute, 1.61 seconds, breaking her own Suffolk County record of 1:02.33, set in 2019.
"I just swam," she said. "I don’t really think about my races too much. I just go. My coach always says, ‘do what you do best, and just swim.’ That’s been what I live by for a while now."
Phelan said she counts her strokes during the race to make sure she is on the correct pace.
"I just make sure I have the right stroke count to get through the lap and make sure it’s not too slow," she said. "I tried my best to go out in a full sprint and come back even faster, but that’s usually not how it works in swimming . . . It’s all about pacing. Honestly, it’s somewhat about the competitors, but mostly about beating the clock. It’s you against the clock."
Or, in the case of the county record, the 2021 Phelan against 2019 Phelan.
"It was my own record, so obviously the goal was to break it," she said. "It was a great feeling."
The 2019 100-breaststroke state champion also won the 200 individual medley in 2:03.33, a time that gives her All-American consideration and was about two seconds off her personal best, Phelan said.
"I had a slow start, but I made up for it in the back half," she said. "But, that’s all right because I tend to have a slower front half and just push through the back half."
Phelan also swam the breaststroke on the winning 200-medley relay team, which also featured Caitlyn Riordan (backstroke), Makenna O’Brien (butterfly), and Lia Edlin Miller (freestyle), in a time of 1:49.05.
Ward Melville won the team championship with 290 points. Hauppauge-Smithtown was second with 252. It was Ward Melville’s fourth straight title and 27th in the last 29 years, according to coach Chris Gordon.
In addition to the team championship, Ward Melville won the 200 freestyle relay. Kaitlyn Ehlers, Isabel Xu, Hannah Lin, and Hannah Brockman had a time of 1:41.21.
Elsewhere, Hauppauge-Smithtown’s Leah Treglia won the 100 backstroke in an All-American-consideration time of 55.45 seconds and the 100 butterfly in 56.73 seconds. Treglia also was on the winning 400-freestyle relay team with MaryGrace Waring, Hailey Wilcox, and Sofia Burns with a time of 3:38.17.