Swimmers typically live and die by personal goals, benchmarks they strive for since well before they take their first lap in the fall.
So when Hazleton Area’s Felicia Grego swam the 200 IM under the district record – the all-elusive goal every swimmer aspires to before their freshman year – she thought she had her bearings wrong. She thought it had to be Wallenpaupack’s Baileigh Vanderhoof with the new Class 3A standard.
“When I saw what my actual time was, I didn’t think it was actually me,” Grego said. “I figured it had to have been a mistake.”
Grego was named The Times Leader Girls Swimmer of the Year following a District 2-4 performance that saw her nab two individual golds, a relay championship and a 200 IM record.
The Cougars junior took the limelight away from Vanderhoof, the defending 200 IM champion and previous record holder. Grego’s seed time was 1.87 seconds behind Vanderhoof heading into the race. Grego shaved an alarming 8.8 seconds to finish the race at 2:10 flat, defeating her competition by 2.86 seconds and shattering the record by 3.1 seconds.
“That was a surprise,” Grego said. “I wasn’t really worrying about that record. My goal, like it was at the beginning of the year, was getting to states and obtaining a good time.”
Grego one-upped Vanderhoof again in the 100 butterfly. The favorite heading into the race, Grego held a five-hundreths of a second advantage halfway through the race. Grego turned it up down the stretch to win the race in 58.9 seconds.
“It’s reassuring,” she said. “My homework has paid off. I’ve been working to get here since I was real little.”
Grego has been successful in a variety of events, finishing second in the breast in 2013. Her favorite to swim is the 200 IM.
“I feel like I’m pretty strong in any event. I like the 200 IM because I can kick it in the last 50 free.”
The Grego surname may sound familiar to those familiar with the swimming community. Her sister Shaina, currently a sophomore at Slippery Rock University, won a combined eight regional gold medals (five individual, three relays) from 2009-12.
Felicia begins her college search soon, though admittedly she is unsure of where or what major she intends to take. She said she eying a Division II or III institution. In the meantime, she said she aims to bring her times down considerably more to make her more appealing to college coaches.
“I definitely want to bring my times down more and maybe swim in college,” she said. “Next year, I want to have fun and do better.”
She also teamed up with Morgan O’Hara, Shelby Sanko and Alex Podlesny to win the 400 free relay in 3:46.28.
At states, she finished 29th in both the 200 IM (2:12.99) and the 100 butterfly (1:00.83). Her relay team took 22nd in 3:46.8.
“My times were close to my district ones,” said Grego, who appeared at Lewisburg her sophomore and junior years. “States can be very intimidating. At my high school meets, we’re used to coming in first all of the time. They’re just so fast at states. I felt a lot more comfortable this time.”
Hazleton Area won its second straight Wyoming Valley Conference South Division title and is currently on a 22-meet winning streak.
Grego completed a lifelong dream when she swam at the YMCA Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina, the week following states.