Liz Walsh entered Saturday afternoon’s county swimming finals with a simple mindset.
“I didn’t come in here thinking about winning,” the Mepham senior (swimming for the Bellmore-Merrick district) said. “I just came here to swim fast.” As it turned out, Walsh ended up doing both.
Walsh took first in both the 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard backstroke and earned Most Valuable Swimmer honors at the Nassau County Swimming and Diving Championships at Eisenhower Park. The Mepham student swam a 2:05.96 in the 200-IM and 56.56 in the 100-backstroke.
“I’m really happy to do this,” Walsh said. “I’ve been on the team for six years now and I’ve had just the best time. All my teammates are so supportive.”
Her first win came in the 200-IM, where she needed a strong finish to beat Great Neck South’s Jessica Whang. “On the fly, I knew I could get out at the same speed as everyone,” Walsh said of the start of the race. “Then, the backstroke is my best stroke, so I tried to push it there . . . . Jessica Whang is an amazing breaststroker. I knew she could catch me, so I just gave it my all at the end.”
Walsh got her second win of the day in her best event, the 100-yard backstroke. She has qualified for the state tournament in the event for five consecutive seasons and took third in the state last year.
“I always try to work on my starts and turns in practice, so I think I’ve been getting better at those and that really helps me pick up speed,” Walsh said.
“She has an incredible amount of talent and the heart of a lion,” Bellmore-Merrick coach Robert Kaefer said. “If a race is ever close at all, she’s going to win it.”
Oceanside’s Catherine Stanford was the day’s other double winner after taking first in the 50-yard freestyle (23.71) and 100-yard freestyle (51.51).
In the diving competition, Great Neck North freshman Zoe Le took first in her first varsity season with a score of 476.75. She edged Manhasset’s Madelyn Cecchini (446.4) and Plainview’s Ashley Bellino (379.9).
Garden City took first in the team competition for the 19th season in a row. The Trojans won the 200-yard medley relay and a dramatic 400-yard freestyle relay, where they edged Long Beach by .06 seconds. Gabriella Meringolo, who was on both relay teams, also took first in the 100-yard butterfly (56.78).
“This is a credit to my seniors, the way they shaped and molded my team since September,” Garden City coach Anne Sullivan said.
The Trojans had a team score of 510 points, beating Manhasset, which took second with 332.5, and Bellmore-Merrick, which came in third with 326.