SEWELL – Katie McClintock describes herself as a mental swimmer, and she left no doubt she was in the right frame of mind Sunday morning.
The Mainland Regional High School junior won two individual titles at the NJSIAA Individual State Championships that were held at the Gloucester County Institute of Technology. She finished first in the 200 individual medley and the 100 backstroke, breaking her own meet record in the IM.
“I was in a very good frame of mind today,” McClintock said. “I was very positive. I knew I had some tough competition along side of me. All I had to do was give it my all and race them throughout my races.”
She came into the meet already holding the record in the IM at 2:00.30, the time which she swam to win last year. In prelims Saturday, she lowered it again capturing the top seed with a time in 2:00.15. On Sunday she powered through the race in 1:58.74, not only knocking almost one and a half seconds off the record but breaking the two minute mark for the first time ever.
“I honestly wasn’t expecting to go that time,” McClintock said. “The race itself felt very hard. When I hit the wall my body just went numb. But I broke two minutes for the first time so that was a big deal, but I didn’t expect to break by that much.
“It feels really good. I won last year and broke the state record. I came in wanting to defend my state title and it’s all good to get it again but to break two minutes, that is probably the thing I’m most happiest about because that was a personal goal for me this year.”
In the 100 backstroke, McClintock touched out Cherry Hill East junior Annie Behm despite the Cougars’ star having a distinct height advantage and longer reach. McClintock finished first in 54.32, while Behm touched the wall in 54.36.
“I felt pretty strong in the 50, I knew I was ahead but I knew that Annie was a very good back half swimmer so I knew I had to go all in at the end, work on my walls and just try to stay strong,” McClintock said.
“I wasn’t expecting to get two state titles today. I wasn’t expecting to out swim anybody in the 100 back especially Annie because she is very talented, but it kind of all fell into place today and I felt really good in the water.”
Behm, as it turns out, finished the meet with three state titles, one individual and two relays. She started the meet by leading off the Cherry Hill East 200 medley relay and was joined by seniors Grave Yoon, Karolyn Merch and Brianna DiSanti winning in a time of 1:44.78. She then pulled past Cumberland Regional’s Melissa Lowry during the second 50 to win the 100 free with a time of 51:01. Lowry finished second in 51:30.
Behm picked up her third gold medal when she anchored the Cougars’ 400 free relay behind Merch, DiSanti and Yoon to hold off Haddonfield and win with a time of 3:29.88.
“I think the relay titles mean more to me because this is my last time with all these guys,” Behm said. “We have been together three years and we’ve gone second in both these relays the last two years so this was definitely my ultimate goal.
“It (backstroke) was really fun. I just went in there really to have fun, try to go fast and enjoy myself and just went for it. It was a best time for me so it was good.”
Lowry was the one displaying the power stroke in the 50 free which she won with a time 23.42 and just touching out Allison Fenska of Moorestown Friends who finished second with a time of 23.57.
“I just went in, I wanted it, I knew I wanted it, I knew I worked hard last year, I knew I worked hard this year and I put everything I had into and when I touched the wall, it was like all my hard work had paid off my senior year at my last meet and there is no other way to describe it than I just mentally willed it,” Lowry said.
Fenska won the gold medal in the 100 butterfly. She went into the final turn trailing Morris Hills’ Margaret Reilly but nailed the last turn and came up with almost a half body length lead. She won the race in 55.41, while Reilly was second in 55.83.
“I really wanted it this year and going into the last 25 I really had to push through and do more underwater to get that time to win and it paid off,” Fenska said. “I really felt like I was going to die. I couldn’t feel anything in my legs or arms. But this was like last year and so I decided to keep my head down and do more underwater.”
All in all, it was an excellent morning for South Jersey girls swimmers.