GIRLS SWIMMING: Family touch draws Cheshire star to Colgate

GIRLS SWIMMING: Family touch draws Cheshire star to Colgate

CHESHIRE — There is a perception that swimming is an individual sport, but for Cheshire senior Nora Bergstrom, that statement couldn’t be further from the truth.

She’s moved on multiple occasions with her family and found she could always rely on close friends from swimming to make her feel comfortable in and out of the pool.

“There have been times throughout my swim career where I didn’t know if it was the sport for me, but it was the people who have kept me going all these years,” said Bergstrom. “I’ve had some great coaches, too.”

When it came down to making her college decision, Bergstrom felt strongly about finding a supportive swim family at a well-regarded school. She believes she’s found a school that checks both boxes: Colgate University.

“I’m really excited,” said Bergstrom upon accepting an athletic scholarship from the New York school. “There has been a lot of hard work from starting my swim career at 4 years old. This step was a lot of years in the making.”

In getting to visit Colgate last December, Bergstrom feels fortunate to have seen the school and met the swim team prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

“The coaching staff is amazing. I connected with them and the team right away. They rely on each other for support,” stated Bergstrom. “It is a very good school academically, too.”

“I think that it is a great fit for her,” said Cheshire coach Dave Modzelewski. “Nora is a hard worker and I think she will make an impact there.”

Along with Colgate, Bergstrom looked at Sacred Heart University, Towson University in Maryland and Drexel University in Pennsylvania. Her sister Grace swims at SHU.

“I definitely look up to her,” said Bergstrom. “She loves her team and has made lifelong friends. It was great to have her help me work through the recruiting process.”

A distance swimmer like her sister, Bergstrom wants to lower her times at Colgate and score points in the Patriot League Championships.

“My coach (Ed Pretre) will have goals for me,” added Bergstrom. “I’m excited to join that team because they have strong distance swimmers.”

Bergstrom is part of a deep group of Cheshire High School seniors who will swim in college. She joins Sophie Murphy (Georgia Tech), Mary Barto (American), Ava Breton (Mount Union), Emma Glover (Maine), Bella Tejeda (Fairfield) and Ali Tyler (George Mason).

“Hopefully, we will stay close,” said Bergstrom. “I’m excited to see what the other girls do in the future.”

As a child, Bergstrom moved with her two sisters from Cheshire to Raleigh, N.C.

“That is where I really got into swimming,” recalled Bergstrom. “I swam a year in high school and also competed for a club team. My teammates kept me going.”

Since her family still had a connection to Cheshire, she wasn’t surprised when they returned to the state in 2018.

“When I came back, I really connected with Cheshire swimmers right away,” Bergstrom said.

Over the next three years, she contributed heavily to the continuation of a championship run. The Rams have rung up seven straight perfect regular seasons, extending their dual-meet win streak to 75. They’ve also won nine consecutive Southern Connecticut Conference crowns and three state titles in a row.

Bergstrom made an immediate impact in her sophomore season in 2018, teaming with Samantha Grenon, Julia Stevens, and Sophie Murphy on the 400-yard freestyle relay to win SCC (3:37.68) and Class L (3:31.70) crowns. In taking third place in the State Open, the girls posted an All-American time of 3:29.93.

“I never thought that it would happen,” Bergstrom of the national distinction. “Those girls have been my friends for years, so it felt great to get that honor together.”

Individually, Bergstrom placed fourth in the 200 (1:55.41) and 500 freestyles (5:08.80) in Class L.

“In my career, I’ve have had Julia Stevens and Sophie Murphy to train with in practice,” reflected Bergstrom. “I think that is why my freestyle swimming has been so strong in the last few years.”

As a junior in 2019, Bergstrom kept up her success in the 400 freestyle relay, joining Stevens, Murphy, and Avery Potyrala to win the SCC (3:36.91) and Class LL (3:31.33) titles. The girls took second in the State Open (3:32.51).

Individually, Bergstrom secured Class LL bronze medals in the 200 (1:54.01) and 500 free (5:05.47). In the State Open, while Stevens swam to gold in the distance races, Bergstrom clocked her best times: 1:53.99 in the 200 (4th) and 5:02.55 in the 500 (3rd).

“I hadn’t seen a time drop in a while, so it felt great to get a breakthrough and help the team,” said Bergstrom, who ranks eighth all-time on the Cheshire lists in the 500 freestyle. “Julia has always been supportive of me since I moved here. She deserved to win those races.”

While she has had the most success in distance freestyle, Bergstrom displayed versatility as a junior. In the 2019 SCC final, she earned third in the 200 IM (2:11.59).

In the 200 freestyle relay, she combined with Sarah Chen, Potyrala and Murphy to finish second in Class LL (1:38.30) and third in the State Open (1:38.00).

Bergstrom feels the Rams do their best against top competition. In moving up from Class L to LL last year, Cheshire beat Greenwich for the first time in a decade and then beat the Cardinals again to win the State Open for the first time since 2004.

“We knew that it would be a challenge, but if we did our best, we felt that we could do it,” said Bergstrom. “We didn’t stop working for those championships.”

Bergstrom hoped to cap her career with more state titles this fall, but the 2020 state meets were not held due to COVID-19. The Rams did compete on the conference level — virtually, like all but one of their regular-season meets — and won their 26th SCC title in 27 years.

Bergstrom teamed with Glover, Mary Barto, and freshman Julia Barto to post a winning time of 1:50.00 in the 200 medley relay.

“I don’t usually swim that event, so it was good to try something different and help us get off to a good start,” said Bergstrom, who led off swimming backstroke.

Bergstrom also joined with Murphy, sophomore Julianna Tyler and Potyrala to win the 400 free relay in 3:34.26.

“When we saw our time, it was exciting,” recalled Bergstrom. “We’ve had some girls graduate from that (relay) team, but our time was close to the All-American one from a couple of years ago.”

Bergstrom also earned All-SCC individual freestyle honors, taking second in the 200 (1:54.84) and third in the 500 (5:06.63).

She will graduate among 12 senior girls from the Cheshire program.

“It is awesome to have been part of that group,” said Bergstrom. “The girls have been so nice since I got here as a sophomore.”

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