Buhach Colony’s Gwynne McBride and Atwater High’s Connor Norton dove into the pool this season with big goals. They both want to be elite swimmers.
Both realized to reach those lofty goals it starts in practice.
“Gwynne was really focused this year, especially with it being her senior year,” said Buhach Colony coach Justin Tanzillo. “It was her last year. She was a different person at practice and she really delivered. She wanted to to end on a high note.”
Norton spent his practice time training with the Turlock Aquatic Club, where he practiced one lane over from Turlock High’s Trent Yandell.
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“I just felt I would get more competition training with the club team,” Norton said. “I think that competition every day in practice helped get me faster. You work so hard to beat the guy next to you. That guy for me for Trent Yandell. We pushed each other every day in practice.”
McBride and Norton both extended their season all way to the Sac-Joaquin Masters Championship. McBride finished 14th in the 100-yard breaststroke with a school record time of 1 minute, 8.7 seconds.
Norton finished sixth at sections in the 100 freestyle (47.48 seconds) and seventh in the 50 freestyle (12.69).
McBride and Norton are the Sun-Star Swimmers of the Year.
“I am so happy with the way my senior year went,” said McBride, who will play water polo at Cal State Monterey Bay next year. “I feel I put in a lot of work to get where I finished. I knew it was my last season and I needed to do big things.”
McBride seemed to break a school record every time she competed a race toward the end of the season. She won two Central California Conference individual titles in the 200 individual medley (2:14.70) and the 100 breaststroke (1:09.14).
McBride was able to maintain her focus all season.
“I feel swimming is a mental sport,” she said. “For me, before I race I visualize my whole race from start to finish, all the turns and everything in between.”
McBride has excelled in a variety of events during her high school career. She’s swam long distance, sprints and just about every stroke. She says the butterfly is her weakest event, but she says trying different things have made swimming fun over the years.
“She really is a strong all-around swimmer,” Tanzillo said. “I think you can put her in any event and she’ll do excellent. She’s been doing for such a long time. She’s a lifer.”
Oddly enough her mom almost had to take her kicking and screaming to her first swimming lesson.
“I’ve been doing this since I was four years old,” McBride said. “It started as my mom’s idea. She felt I needed to do something over the summer. I absolutely did not want to do it. I was scared because I couldn’t swim very well. I was so mad when we went to my first practice and I ended up loving it. Ever since then swimming has been a part of me.”
Norton also wasn’t a big swimming fan. He played baseball during the spring up until his sophomore year. That’s when he decided swimming would help keep him in shape for water polo.
“To be honest, before my sophomore year, I didn’t like swimming at all,” Norton said. “I didn’t do it. I rejected it. But then I started winning and I started liking the competition. I started to focus more at practice. I had to commit to it. No excuses. Just do it.”
Norton won the frosh-soph section championships in the 50 and 100 freestyle events as a sophomore.
After returning to sections this year to compete against the varsity athletes, Norton feels he’s set up to try to make a run at the state meet next year as a senior.
“I am pretty happy,” Norton said. “I knew I was going to go up against the big guys at sections this year with me swimming varsity. I felt I held my ground, I did pretty good.
“When I get back there I ‘ll be able to calm down a bit. This year I didn’t know with my seeding whether I’d made the finals. Now I have a taste for it. Hopefully I’ll be better next year.”
Abraham Santana, Merced
Michael Kaileb, El Capitan
David Chen, Merced
Luke van Warmerdam, Atwater
Damon Ladousier, Merced
Luke Bird, Buhach Colony
Aaron Helfgott, Buhach Colony
Carter Azevedo, Hilmar
Elias Marquez, Atwater
Marion Carpenter, El Capitan
Pamela Solano, Buhach Colony
Erin McBride, Buhach Colony
Francess Carpenter, Merced
Madison Nolen, El Capitan
Stephanie Hart, Merced
Emma Seifert, Buhach Colony
Beth Wilson, Dos Palos
Sophia Hart, Merced
Wednesday: Boys Volleyball
Thursday: Boys Golf
Friday: Track & Field
Saturday: Boys Tennis