ITHACA, N.Y. —Time flies when you’re having fun.
Northport’s Chloe Stepanek was only an eighth-grader the first time she appeared at the girls swimming and diving state championship in 2015.
Since then, she has broken numerous records and has won four state titles.
When reality hit on Friday that she would be participating in her fifth and final state championship of her illustrious high school tenure, she found it incomprehensible.
“During the senior walk prior to the start of prelims, I was like ‘wow I can’t believe I’m actually a senior,’” Stepanek said. “I think it’s going to be emotional [Saturday] during the finals when I realize that this is my last 200 [yard] medley relay, last 200 freestyle and last 100 freestyle.”
Stepanek, who swims for the combined Northport/Commack team, had the top qualifying times in both the 200 free (1:47.11) and the 100 free (49.48) during the preliminary heats at the Kelsey Partridge Bird Natatorium at Ithaca College.
She will be seeking her third consecutive individual state crown in each event.
“I try to not focus on the time, and just focus on racing and having fun because that’s when I swim my best,” the two-time Newsday Long Island Swimmer of the Year said.
Oceanside senior Catherine Stanford had the fastest time in the 50 free (23.01) and was second behind Stepanek in the 100 free (50.44). She will be looking for her second straight state title in the 50 free.
“The real test will come [Saturday]. I want to go out with a bang,” Stanford said. “I am going to put my all into it because I know I won’t be here next year.”
Sacred Heart shined during the prelims, as its 200 medley relay (1:43.68) and 400 free relay (3:30.55) each finished with the top qualifying time. The 200 medley relay was comprised of Tess Howley, Cavan Gormsen, Joan Cash and Ariana Brattoli, and the 400 free relay featured Howley, Gormsen, Cash and Rebecca Konop.
Howley had the quickest time in the 100 butterfly (53.51) and was third in the 100 backstroke (55.73), Gormsen was first in the 500 free (4:49.71) and finished second in the 200 free (1:49.34) and Cash was second in the 50 free (23.43).
Gormsen and Howley, both freshmen, had high praise for their teammates.
“Some of the girls have swam at the states before and were really helpful to all the newcomers,” Gormsen said. “They gave us a good layout of the meet to help us prepare.”
Howley added: “They give me so much energy. There is so much positivity around us.”
Commack’s Denise Phelan, who competes for the combined Northport/Commack team, finished with the top time of 1:02.74 in the 100 breaststroke.
Long Island swimmers finished first in seven of the eight individual events.
“I came in seeded first, but I didn’t expect to finish with the top time,” Phelan said. “There are other girls here outside my section that are faster and can go faster. Going into the finals it’s going to be scary, but I’m going to see what I can do.”
In the 1-meter, 11-dive event, three Long Islanders finished within the top 20. Farmingdale’s Lauren Mehta was 14th (431.55), Jericho’s Rachel Yang was 16th (430.10) and Smithtown East’s Hayley Beutel placed 17th (428.90).
“I didn’t really expect to finish as high as I did,” Mehta said. “I got off to a rough start and throughout the whole meet I really didn’t do my best, but I kept pushing through and scored higher than last year.”