Anna Hulan '25, Olivia Barbieri '25 and two girls' relays earned spots in the finals. The girls' 400 free relay broke the 1996 school record, and overall the team swam 80% lifetime bests.
By Justin Karpinos, Swimming Team Head Coach
The USN swimming team brought 12 swimmers to the Tennessee Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association state championship meet last weekend, which was held at Centennial Sportsplex. Over the course of two days, the team posted 36 lifetime best swims, 20 swims that earned places on USN’s all-time top 10 list, and one dramatic school record.
The meet was broken into four sessions:
On Friday, February 11, the preliminaries kicked off with the boys’ 200 medley relay. The USN team of Leo Frein ’25, William Grobmyer ’22, Arnav Reddy ’22, and Owen Block ’23 improved over their seed time by two seconds, with three out of the four boys posting lifetime best splits. That was a good start for the morning.
The 200 freestyle was shortly afterwards, and Leo was back in the pool. In the middle of the pool in a tight heat, Leo used his underwater speed to pull ahead on the last wall, winning the heat and dropping nearly three seconds in the process. His time moved him into eighth on the USN all-time top 10 list.
In the girls’ pool, Olivia Schwarz ‘24 had a strong race that was just 0.02 seconds shy of her lifetime best also just shy of a spot in the evening’s finals, finishing 17th.
In the 200 IM, USN also had one boy and one girl represented, and each came up with a best time. Jacob Rothman ’23 chipped .16 seconds off his best time again from the region meet. Anna Hulan ’25 dropped .4 seconds, winning her heat and qualifying for the championship final in the process.
Our 50 freestyles were kicked off by Caroline Cramer ’22, who dropped .28 off her previous lifetime best. Olivia Barbieri ’25 swam shortly after and dropped over a second, winning her heat from lane eight and jumping from 32nd to 14th. Olivia earned a spot in the evening’s consolation final in the process. In the boys’ pool, William was just shy of his best time, and Owen swam a lifetime best but was cited for twitching on the block, which resulted in a disqualification.
In the 100 butterfly, Kara Grace Hess ’23 swam a high school best time that was just off her lifetime best, earning her a spot on the USN top 10 list. Olivia S. was back in the same race and had a strong first 50 but faded a bit down the stretch, finishing shy of her lifetime best.
That evening, Anna and Olivia B. returned for finals and rose to the occasion in a big way. Anna swam a controlled, well-split race and cut nearly two seconds from her prelim time, finishing third overall. Her time of 2:05.95 was within half a second of the USN school record and not far away from the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association all-American consideration standard. Olivia B. took 15th in the final of the 50 freestyle, chipping another .07 seconds off her previous best from the morning. Her time earned her fifth place on the USN all-time top 10.
Saturday, February 12 was a bigger day for the team, both in terms of the number of swims and the number of potential scoring swims.
Caroline kicked off the morning for us. In her final individual 100 freestyle, she swam another lifetime best, chipping .32 off her previous best. Caroline finished her high school career having swum a best time in every race she swam the state meet. Kara Grace followed shortly afterwards, swimming another high school best time that was just shy of her lifetime best.
Emma Schwarz ’24 was our only 500 freestyler, and she swam a gutsy, aggressive race to earn (like Jacob the day before) another lifetime best beyond her breakthrough swim at the Region meet.
The 200 freestyle relays were, for us, some of the most anticipated races of our meet. Our boys’ team was anticipating being a bubble team, and they rose to the occasion, swimming a season best time by 1.5 seconds. Leo (24.04), William (22.74), Mark Luschen '24 (24.10), and Owen (22.80) jumped from 24th to 18th, finishing as the second alternate. Notably, their time earned them eighth on the USN top 10 list, which was our first and only boys’ relay swim to earn a spot this season.
In the girls’ pool, Kara Grace, Anna, Olivia S., and Olivia B. surprised everyone by earning a spot in the championship final after entering the meet seeded 18th. This represented USN’s first championship final appearance in a relay since 1997.
The 100 backstroke was shortly afterward, and Leo and Olivia B. came back and posted two lifetime bests. Leo came off the last wall with a fury, finishing in 56.10, which vaulted him up to fourth on the USN top 10. Olivia B.’s lifetime best of 1:01.47 moved her up to third on the list.
Our breaststrokers built on that momentum, with both William and Anna posting best times. William, notably, earned his first individual spot on the USN top 10 list in his final high school swim, dropping 2.5 seconds and winning his heat in the process. His time (1:04.17) puts him fifth on the USN top 10. Anna had a great final 25 in a very close heat, qualifying 10th for the final with a best time (1:07.59).
The 400 freestyle relays closed out the morning. Our boys’ team of Owen, Jacob, Arnav, and Mark each swam a best split to close out the boys’ meet, with Owen’s leadoff representing a best time by nearly a full second. Our girls’ team of Olivia S., Kara Grace, Olivia B., and Anna were tired – all four had raced a lot that session already – but still qualified 12th for the final.
In the meet’s final session, USN came to play. Our girls’ 200 freestyle relay cut a half second from their prelim swim, finishing eighth overall. Their time (1:40.16) was within half a second of the 1996 school record, and all four girls posted splits faster than their prelims swims: Olivia B. led off in 25.07 and was followed by Kara Grace (25.80), Olivia S. (25.12), and Anna (24.17).
About 30 minutes later, Anna’s 100 breaststroke was competitive in finals as her prelim had been, and her time of 1:07.60 earned her 12th overall, just 1/100 of a second off her prelim swim. This performance vaulted her to second overall on the USN top 10 list.
The final swim of the meet was arguably the Tigers’ best of the meet and the season. The 400 freestyle relay team dropped over five seconds off their prelim time (the biggest prelim-to-final drop of the final), moving up a place and beating two teams in the A final in the process. Olivia B. led off in a best time (54.67), and Kara Grace (57.31), Olivia S. (54.10), and Anna (52.24) all posted season best or lifetime best splits.
Notably, their final time (3:38.32) narrowly took down the 26-year-old school record, set by Elizabeth Foy ’97, Brooke Wheeler ’97, Megan Brodbine ’98, and Lisa Bushnell ’96, giving the team a wonderful punctuation mark on the state meet and the season.
The five scoring swims were good enough to earn 57 points, ranking USN’s girls’ team 13th out of over 125 teams competing. This is the girls’ team’s highest finish since 1997.
The coaches would like to congratulate all 12 members of the state team on excellent performances all weekend. We are proud of their focus, energy, competitive spirit, and support for one another throughout the ups and downs of the meet. To finish our final championship meet with over 80% lifetime bests is a difficult feat (especially with many of our team making big drops just to qualify), and the Tigers came through in a big way to achieve this. Special congratulations are due to our three seniors – Caroline, William, and Arnav — each of whom posted some of their fastest performances in their final high school meets.
Thank you, of course, to our wonderful parents, who were there to support and cheer on the team throughout the duration of the season, and to our Athletic Department administrators for being present to follow our team all season long.