The ladies’s 400-yard freestyle relay on the 2022 North Carolina State Championships: one final race, the ultimate chapter of a historic highschool profession.
With simply over 100 yards to go, Myers Park leads the best way; the hosts, Cardinal Gibbons, path in fourth.
Their teammates charging into the wall under, the groups’ “anchor” leg swimmers launch one after the other from their beginning blocks, arrows loosed from a quivering bow.
5 seconds have handed since Myers Park started its final leg — time sufficient for Claire Curzan, poised on the finish of Cardinal Gibbons’ lane, to take inventory earlier than she too vanishes under the floor.
A flurry of underwater kicks later and there she is, stroke by stroke gaining inch by inch.
50 yards in, the deficit is halved. Don’t look away now (although rival followers might wish to), otherwise you’ll miss what occurs subsequent.
A gaze up on the scoreboard will let you know all you have to know; a blistering 46.76 seconds after leaping from the blocks, Curzan was completed, and Cardinal Gibbons had gained its first state relay title in program historical past.
The margin of victory: 0.18 seconds.
Blink, and you actually would have missed it.
Earlier that weekend, Curzan, a Cary, N.C. native, additionally shattered the 100-yard butterfly American file —no small feat, particularly for a excessive schooler.
However in fact by the point this smiley younger racer, who began out simply “attempting to beat [her] massive older brother,” stepped up with a college’s hopes on her shoulders, she was no stranger to the strain or stakes of a giant race.
Already the holder of a number of world junior data, Curzan’s cache of worldwide medals, together with an Olympic silver gained simply after her 17th birthday, reached properly into the double digits. The American flag emblazoned on her cap, she had raced the world over from Budapest to Tokyo to Abu Dhabi since arriving on the worldwide scene in 2019 at age 15.
A number of months after that momentous relay within the acquainted setting of North Carolina, Curzan returned house from a second outing in Budapest to the tune of 5 extra worldwide medals. In Melbourne final December, she grabbed seven medals and led off Crew USA’s world record-breaking 4x100m medley relay at her fourth World Championships.
Nonetheless, when reminiscing on a profession that, whereas younger, is already etched in a nation’s storied historical past within the sport, that last weekend of racing in North Carolina performs on the thoughts of each Curzan and her father Mark, who known as it “a type of tear-jerk, proud dad moments.”
From one Cardinal to a different
A yr on from her state championship-winning relay endeavors, Curzan — now an 18-year-old faculty freshman — is gearing up for a brand new problem.
This time, in mid-March, the not-quite-so far-off land of Knoxville, Tenn. would be the stage because the nation’s No. 1-ranked recruit dives into her first nationwide championship with the Stanford Cardinal.
“It’s a very cool honor [to qualify for NCAAs], and it’s enjoyable how that objective conjures up a variety of competitors in everybody,” Curzan stated.
Billed by main swim publication “SwimSwam” as “one of many high NCAA recruits of all-time,” the Cardinal Gibbons alumna and TAC Titans membership swimmer had her choose of the bunch when the nation’s high faculty applications got here calling.
Time spent in Tokyo the earlier summer season with former Stanford stars Simone Manuel ʼ18 and Katie Ledecky ʼ21, in addition to Stanford girls’s and then-US Olympic head coach Greg Meehan, served to solidify her choice — however for Curzan, in the long run the selection was a “no-brainer.”
“Iron sharpens iron,” Curzan stated, pointing to each the Cardinal’s historical past because the winningest crew in NCAA historical past and the caliber of its present roster in pushing her to attain new heights.
Plus, she added with fun, you will get tanned within the out of doors swimming pools, “which is the perfect half!”
By fall 2022 Curzan was sure for the Farm, alongside TAC Titans teammate (and the 2022 class’s No. 2 recruit) Charlotte Hook.
Her new coach was, understandably, happy by that selection.
“Claire’s very thorough and analytical,” Meehan stated. “It’s what makes her actually nice as an athlete.
“She’s an unbelievable racer, tremendous versatile,” he continued. “As nice as she is on particular person occasions, she’s nearly higher on relays as a result of she simply rises to that problem.”
“Versatile” is an adjective that definitely matches Curzan.
Aggressive from the 50m to 200m distance in butterfly, backstroke and freestyle, with a specific knack for the previous two, the sprinter has advanced into considerably of a cross between two of her childhood idols within the sport: butterfly legend Dana Vollmer, and backstroke nice Missy Franklin.
Whereas navigating the whirlwind journey that’s one’s first yr in school, Curzan (and the remainder of the crew’s all-star recruits) boosted the Cardinal to an undefeated common season, profitable every of the eight twin meets contested.
“I stay up for apply each day and simply being with the ladies, and I’m tremendous fortunate to have such a tight-knit group of ladies,” Curzan stated.
On dry land, Curzan, who’s presently contemplating majoring in Administration Science and Engineering, stated she values having extra freedom at school decisions and schedules in school.
One favourite up to now was a ballroom dancing class within the fall; rising up, dance was one among a myriad of different sports activities Curzan entertained earlier than her ardour within the pool prevailed.
In a schedule stacked with courses and coaching, Curzan additionally finds time to learn every time potential. Most not too long ago, suggestions from Stanford teammates for the lengthy journey to Australia (for December’s World Championships) drove her to Sarah J. Maas’ “Throne of Glass” collection.
One championship down…
On the street to the NCAAs this postseason, Curzan and her teammates did produce other enterprise to deal with first.
A number of weeks in the past, the versatile freshman dropped a number of lifetime bests and championship data to assist the Cardinal retain their Pac-12 convention crown in Federal Means, Wash.
“It was such a cool meet atmosphere with the stands being very rowdy, and I had a variety of enjoyable lastly with the ability to race in a tech [racing] go well with,” Curzan stated of her first faculty championship meet.
After clocking the quickest time achieved within the 200-yard backstroke since former Cardinal Regan Smith’s American Report in 2019, Curzan enters the nationwide championships in Knoxville holding the nation’s quickest time in that occasion this season by over a second — and inside hanging distance of the Pac-12, NCAA and American data.
She additionally ranks within the high 5 entries in her different two particular person occasions, the 100-yard butterfly (fifth) and the 100-yard backstroke (third).
Having already achieved her nationwide championship qualifying requirements earlier this season, Curzan was one among a bunch of Stanford swimmers who weren’t absolutely rested earlier than Pac-12s. That signifies that starting Wednesday, there’s each probability the freshman phenom could possibly be even sooner at what she expects shall be an “superior” NCAAs.