Elle Gerbes had a Section 9 preliminary like few others, qualifying for three individual events at the upcoming New York State Federation girls’ swimming and diving championship meet.
She qualified for the 50-yard freestyle and the 100-yard butterfly individually. She also swam a state qualifying time in her leg of the 400-yard relay.
There is a catch, however. She can only swim two.
When she suits up at the Webster Aquatic Center for the state championship meet on Friday at the Webster High School Aquatic Center, she’ll swim in the 50-yard freestyle and the 100-yard freestyle.
“I like swimming those two,” said Gerbes, a junior at Newburgh Free Academy. “But I think the 50-free and the 100-fly being back-to-back is a bit much mentally.”
The 50-yard freestyle is the fourth race on the event list, while the butterfly is the sixth. Diving is usually competed fifth, but at the state meet it will take place Friday afternoon in its entirety.
So, she will swim the 50, rest during the break where the diving event would have taken place, and then return for the 100-yard freestyle, the seventh event.
The biggest change between Gerbes’ state meet appearance last year and the upcoming appearance this weekend is last time, she only had to concern herself with the 50-free. Now she has two events to compete in.
“I definitely have to take time to recover in between and prepare myself for the next event. It’s definitely a bit of a different experience, but I’m excited for it.”
Last year’s experience was a positive one for Gerbes, then a sophomore, qualifying for the B Final on the second day of the 2022 state meet. She finished 20th with a time of 24.82, after finishing 21st with a slightly faster time of 24.66 seconds.
“Last year’s states was my first really big meet with all these different people there,” Gerbes said. “It was just a very big, exciting meet, and I’m really glad that I got to go last year, and then this year with two events.”
She’s already in a better position in the 50-yard freestyle than she was last year. She qualified for the state meet with a time of 24.26 seconds in the preliminaries, which was already better than her state times from last year.
She dropped her time to 24.22 seconds in the finals.
“Part of the beauty of high school sports is as they get older, they get bigger and stronger,” Newburgh coach Zach Williams said. “That’s great and everything, but for Elle, the difference was her training and mental side.”
In terms of swimming time, Williams said Gerbes was still “new” as she’s only been swimming a short time, since seventh grade. Many of the swimmers she’ll be competing against have been swimming since they were young children.
“In our sport that’s kind of middle age,” Williams said. “She’s still kind of a swimming young person.”
There is little difference between the two events. Both are all-out sprints. The second just requires the ability to sprint for twice as long. Both require all-out evidence, but she has the confidence she’ll have enough left for the 100.
“I think breathing is definitely a big part of it,” Gerbes said. “Keeping my breathing for every three or every five is important, and just really holding on and finishing out hard, and doing everything I can to push a little harder on that last 25.”
When Gerbes qualified last year, she was the first Goldback swimmer to go since Shaylea Triller in 2019. For the second straight year, she is the only Goldback to go.
Maybe next year, she’ll have company.
“I hope I set a good example for (my teammates) and that I do let them feel that there is a possibility for them to put in that work and see the result is there if they put the work in.”