Local swimmer excels in state championship

In the pursuit of athletic excellence, hard work is always part of the equation. For 14-year-old Emma Gawronski of Beacon Falls, dedication and commitment to competitive swimming have paid off. She earned nine medals at the Connecticut Age Group Championships, which were held July 29 through Aug. 1 at Wesleyan University.

Gawronski has been a member of the Cheshire YMCA Sea Dogs swim program since she was seven, and last year garnered two third-place medals in the Connecticut championship event.

In this year’s championship, the Beacon Falls swimmer racked up four individual bronze medals to go along with the three silvers and one bronze she helped earn as part of the relay squad, and her third-place overall finish in the distance.

“Emma has made tremendous progress,” said Sea Dogs coach Lloyd Goldstein.

“I have been coaching for 23 years, and she is one of the most hard-working athletes I’ve had. She has a great attitude and is very coachable. She is now reaching the pinnacle of her age group, and I feel she is ready for the next level.”

She will reach that next level by the way of Cheshire Academy in the fall. Although Gawronski went to elementary school with many who will enter Woodland High School in September, the young Beacon Falls swimmer has her sights set on the big picture.

“She has seen the numbers put up on the wall of the Woodland pool, and I’m sure she would like to break some of those marks,” said Jim Gawronski, Emma’s father and a former University of Connecticut swimmer.

“But Emma sees the big picture,” he continued. “My wife Daron is the nurse at Cheshire Academy, and when we toured the school Emma really felt that was the place for her to be. What made [it] a perfect fit was that she will be able to continue training with the Sea Dog program during the school season. That’s something that is not allowed by the CIAC in the [Naugatuck Valley League]. Emma was adamant about continuing her training during the school year.”

That training includes practices five days a week for 11 months, with August being the only break in the schedule.

Emma captured third place in four individual events at the championship meet with a time of 2 minutes, 17.07 seconds in the 200 freestyle, a 4:42.97 in the 400 freestyle, a 9:51.53 in the 800 freestyle and an 18:37.09 in the 1500 freestyle. She also swam to a sixth-place finish in the 400 IM with a time of 5:33.45. Gawronski finished the meet third in the overall distance, with a point total of 79 and another bronze medal.

“The competition is really close,” Emma Gawronski said. “It’s really anyone’s race. You need to come out focused and give it everything you have. I do all the distance races and also put in a lot of practice with the relay teams. Our relays did really well and it’s from all the practice we put into it.”

Emma was part of three relay teams that placed second and earnedsilver medals. The 4-by-400 freestyle team finished second in 4:18.97; the 4-by-800 freestyle finished second in 9:20.42; and the 4-by-400 medley team came in second in 4:51.00 with teammates Jenna Cannata, Sara Barlok, and Madeline Snow along with Denise Costello, Lindsay Smalec and Helen Park sharing the honors.

Gawronski also teamed up with Cannata, Snow and Hannah Alyward to take third in the 4×200 freestyle in a time of 2:01.55. For her outstanding effort, Gawronski qualified for the YMCA National Championship next summer in Atlanta, Ga.

“I feel I’m swimming at the top of my range right now,” Emma said. “Hopefully I can take this success on to the high school level with the goal of someday swimming in college.”

Emma’s younger sister, 10 year-old Dia, is also a member of the Sea Dogs program and qualified for nine events, but didn’t place quite as high as her older sister. Emma also likes to train in triathlons and cross country; she placed 15th among women at the recent Pat Griskus Triathlon in her first attempt.