Chelsea Chenault polished off a stellar prep swimming career in record fashion
Chelsea Chenault had run all the calculations.
She was convinced that she and her Carondelet teammates could set a national record in the 400 freestyle relay at the North Coast Section Swimming Championships on May 18. The high school independent (private schools) national record for the 400-yard relay had been set earlier in the year by Germantown Academy (PA.).
“I looked up (Germantown’s) splits and knew we had a shot,” Chenault said. “I’m kind of like a swimming nerd when it comes to all that.”
A very competitive one.
Not only was Chenault steadfast about the relay team’s chances of setting the national record, she was also adamant about leading off. Why? To take aim at another record, of course. The lead leg of any relay can stand as a separate mark. In this case, Chenault had her eye on the NCS record in the 100 freestyle.
“I lead off last year and missed the NCS record by a tenth of a second,” she said. “I was that close. I told (Carondelet coach Jasmine Millan) ‘I have to do it again, I have to try and get back at that record.’ It was haunting me.”
And so it was fitting, that in the final swim of her decorated high school career, Chenault put her name on a fifth NCS record and set the pace for Carondelet to set the national mark she knew was possible. Chenault’s record lead-off time was 49.27 seconds and then she stood on the deck and watched as teammates Natalie Amberg, Madelyn Murphy and Madison White each did their part.
“I knew we were right on pace, and I was like ‘Oh my gosh it’s going to come down to this last leg.’ I was freaking out. I was shaking.”
The Cougars finished in 3 minutes and 20.42 seconds, more than a second faster than Germantown’s record mark of 3:21.63. It was the second national independent record that Chenault has helped set at Carondelet, the first coming in the 200 medley relay in 2011 — a mark that still stands.
Chenault’s total haul at the 2013 NCS Swimming Championships included three golds, three NCS records and the one national record. It was an effort that cemented her status as one of the section’s best swimmers of all time (12 golds, five NCS records, 2 national records over four years) and one to watch on the national stage in the years to come.
In fact, she almost reached her Olympic dream in 2012, but fell just two-tenths of a second from qualifying for the team in the 200-meter freestyle. She now has her eyes on Rio de Janiero in 2016, and will prepare by competing for USC. Beginning June 24, she will be in Indianapolis attempting to qualify for the FINA World Championships.
And we now know what happens when she gets another shot at achieving something which slipped through her fingers the first time. Records fall.
— Chace Bryson
THE CHENAULT FILES
• THE STATS: Chenault closed out a stellar high school swimming career with perhaps her finest NCS Championships performance. She set NCS records in the 100 and 200 freestyles, won the 500 freestyle and swam the lead-off leg to Carondelet’s national-record setting 400 freestyle relay.
• HOW LONG SHE’S BEEN SWIMMING: “I began swimming recreation when I was 4, and switched to year-round at age 12.”
• WHAT SHE LOVES ABOUT IT: “That feeling when you accomplish what you’ve been working for the entire year. It’s hard to stay motivated throughout the season and through every practice. … But when you really put in that work and you put in that time and the time comes to get that final race that you’ve been working and you accomplish what you’ve been trying to accomplish, there’s no better feeling in the world.”
• WHAT SHE’S LEARNED: “I’ve learned I’m a lot tougher mentally than I originally thought I was. I’ve had to go through a lot of ups and downs in the sport, and I’ve really learned that if you fail once it’s not the end of the world. You can keep going.”
SportStars Magazine: High School Sports Articles Online SportStars is your go-to source for the very best high school sports articles in California. Player and team profiles, game coverage, health and fitness tips and the largest Camps, Clinics & Combine resource for athletes. We're the story behind the stats.