CHATHAM, NJ - If there is one thing to be said about Sara Barrett when it comes to swimming, it's a given that she's going to go the distance.
"I've always been able to swim for a long time," Barrett said. "I come from a family of distance swimmers and we all have the endurance to swim for a long time. The key is to hold onto your stroke."
The Chatham High junior got a chance to race against the best swimmers in New Jersey last weekend at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions and returned home with three medals. Her fifth-place finish in the 500-yard freestyle race made her the fastest distance swimmer in Chatham history as her 4:54.85 broke the Cougar record held by Regan Kology of 4:55.08.
Sara Barrett is the Chatham Wealth Management Athlete of the Week.
Barrett also was part of the Chatham's 200 free relay team that placed sixth at the Meet of Champions in 1:39.33; placed 11th in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:53.80, and swam on the 400 free relay that placed 9th in 3:35.86.
"She got on the podium to take a picture and get a medal for the 500 and five minutes later she was swimming in the 200 relay," Chatham coach Frank DiGiacomo said. "She's really a hard-working and dedicated swimmer. She leads by example. You might be working hard, but if you need the inspiration to do more, look at Sara. She has no stop and no quit in her."
Barrett swims the 1,000 and the mile for the Berkeley Aquatic Club, practicing eight times a week, which includes 5:30 a.m. and after-school training on Tuesdays and Thursdays. With all the sets she does in the pool, the meets with Chatham High represent her fun time in the water.
"During training is when I focus on bettering my technique," the 17-year-old said. "I try to push myself out of my comfort zone so then when I'm in a race it's not as hard. I'll challenge myself to do crazy hard sets so that swimming 20 laps doesn't seem that hard.
"I find racing fun and I feel like the 500 is the perfect distance. It's not a sprint, but it's not too long. Swimming is very rewarding because when I do well, I know I worked to get there. The Meet of Champions is one of those rare times when everyone in New Jersey is in one meet and there are so many fast girls there."
Her strategy in the 500 at the MOC was to stay with Grace Miller of Morristown for as long as possible. Miller, who swam in the lane next to Barrett, repeated as the champion for the second straight year.
"I wasn't putting any pressure on myself," Barrett said. "It's always such a fun meet because it's away, we stay at a hotel and go out for dinner. Just being with my teammates got it out of my head and that's why I ended up doing well. I didn't psych myself out."
Barrett followed in the footsteps of her older sister, Nina, who swam her last-ever race for Georgetown on the same weekend. Her parents, Geoff and Donna, commuted from Long Island to South Jersey to support both daughters.
"We tend to talk swimming a lot at home," Barrett said.
Both parents swam in high school and Geoff Barrett went on to swim at LSU. Nina went to Georgetown and Sara's older brother, Tom, is a sophomore swimmer at Cal Tech. Little brother, Joe, is a seventh-grader.
Sara benefited from a growth spurt just before she reached CHS, going from a 5-2 eighth-grader to her current 5-10 height.
"She's tall and her stroke is beautiful and very efficient," DiGiacomo said. "The benefit is that she's gotten longer, and she's using her technique to take advantage of that."
Last May, Barrett swam in the Open Water Nationals - a 5K race in Miami.
"Swimming the race in the choppy ocean water was hard, but it was a good experience," she said.
Out of the water, Barrett enjoys her Pre-AP 3D art course at CHS and is into baking birthday cakes.
Editor's note: The Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Chatham Wealth Management in recognition of the commitment a Chatham athlete has made to their sport, their school and their community. For over twenty years, Chatham Wealth Management has been committed to putting our clients first by crafting customized investment solutions. Call us at 973-635-4275 or email us at email@example.com to discuss how we can help meet your financial goals. To learn more about our products and team, visit us at www.chathamwealth.com.