Szerencsits competes in first state swim meet
On Wednesday, March 11, Northampton’s Olivia Szerencsits competed in the PIAA State Swimming and Diving Championship meet at Bucknell University. Szerencsits qualified for the States meet after finishing second in the PIAA District 11 Swimming Championship for the girls 500 yard freestyle event.
Olivia has grown up with the sport of swimming. Beginning her swimming career at the age of 7, she has competed in various USA Swimming events over the past 9 years and is now in her second year on the Northampton varsity swim team.
While you might see Olivia as a strong competitor in the 200 freestyle or even the 100 butterfly races, distance events are where she really excels. It is not uncommon for Szerencsits to swim a 1000 yard or 1650 yard freestyle race during the USA swimming season.
In fact, Szerencsits has qualified for USA Swimming Senior Championships and USA Swimming Junior Olympics in both long-distance events.
“I’ve always been a distance swimmer,” she explains. “Coming into high school, they don’t have anything longer than the 500 yard freestyle, so during the high school season that is very much my event.”
Distance events can be long, grueling races that require a combination of strategy and endurance. Some swimmers prefer the speed of the shorter sprint races, but for Olivia, distance events like the 20-lap, 500 yard freestyle are much preferred.
“I feel like I have more control in a distance event because they don’t do by so fast,” explained Szerencsits.
While she is no stranger to large swimming venues after competing in 5 USA Swimming Junior Olympic meets as well as USA Swimming’s Silver and Senior championships, this was Szerencsits’ first state championship meet appearance. Reflecting on the experience Szerencsits recalls feeling calm in the time leading up to her race but the gravity of the championship meet began to stir up some nerves as her race drew nearer.
“Once I got behind the blocks in the ready area, I started feeling butterflies in my stomach,” commented Olivia. “I was not so much nervous for the race but just because of the entire environment.”
Olivia went on the comment that advice from Northampton head coach Cullen Mentzell helped calm her nerves as he told her to “just go out there, enjoy the experience and don’t stress.” Overall 91 teams were represented at the state championship meet with 32 swimmers from across Pennsylvania competing in the girls 500 freestyle.
“The first half of the race was a little like a struggle,” recalled Szerencsits, “but then I got into the rhythm and the second half was better.”
Szerencsits finished the race with a time of 5:15.16 which was just three seconds off her lifetime best time.
Coach Mentzell viewed Olivia’s performance at States as a definite positive.
“I was very happy with how she did,” explains Mentzell. “It was her second-best time ever and it was a quick turnaround from districts to states. Overall I’m very pleased with her performance.”
Szerencsits echoed her coach’s sentiments stating that she was proud of her swim and wouldn’t change anything about it.
“I swam the best I could in the moment, and I feel like I had a good race and gave good effort,” she said.