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GIRLS SWIMMING: Markoja, Barto & Gajecki deliver on No. 1 seeds in Class L

WEST HARTFORD —  In last Saturday’s Class L swim trials at Cornerstone Aquatics Center in West Hartford, Cheshire High School senior Julia Barto clocked the top time in the 200-yard individual medley, but just missed getting the Cheshire record by .09.

When she returned to the same pool for Tuesday’s final, Barto got the mark she was looking for and didn’t stop there. The senior standout won gold medals in all of her four races, leading Cheshire to a runner-up finish (565.5 points).

Individually, Barto was victorious in the 200-yard IM (2:01.30) and 500-yard freestyle (4:55.12). Her IM swim was historic, as she shattered the Class L record of New Canaan’s Meghan Egan (2:01.91, 2015) and the Cheshire mark of Liz Boyer (2:02.86, 2016).

It also earned Barto All-American status for a second straight year.

“It is great,” said Barto, who will continue swimming at Penn State. “When I was a freshman, I got to swim with Liz. She is an amazing swimmer, so it is great to make her proud.”

“They (the records) are well deserved. She works hard,” added Cheshire coach Matt Traub. “I actually went to school with Meghan Egan at BU. I’m going to tell her that she (Barto) is deserving that of honor.”

Cheshire had another double state champ in junior Natalia Gajecki, who captured the 100 butterfly (58.34) and 100 backstroke (56.85). While trailing going into the final lap of the butterfly, she dug deep to surge ahead and hold off Fitch Co-Op junior Anna Orphanides (58.60).

“Everyone is tired at that point, but you need to keep pushing and finish strong,” explained Gajecki.

In the backstroke, Gajecki defended her title from last year.

“She had some tough races and worked really hard through them,” said Traub.

Like the Rams, the Maloney/Platt Co-Op had a big night in West Hartford. Entering as the top seed in the 200-yard freestyle, sophomore Addison Markoja realized her goal of winning a state title. Markoja clocked a time of 1:55.25 to come away victorious in a tight finish with Hall junior Miriam Youel (1:55.55).

“It is awesome,” stated Markoja, who added a bronze medal in the 500-yard freestyle (5:11.59). “We have put a lot of work into this season. It has paid off.”

Junior teammate Sarah Kim placed fourth in the 100-yard backstroke (59.90).

“It is amazing,” said Kim. “It has been my goal to break a minute in the backstroke. I have to give a lot of credit to (Head Coach) Tyler (Prescott) for helping me get there."

Kim also finished 15th in the 200-yard IM (2:18.62). Markoja and Kim teamed with seniors Rylie Benigni and Kamryn Yepez to place eighth in the 200- (1:44.39) and 400-yard (3:48.67) freestyle relays.

Barto and Gajecki were also part of relays on Tuesday night. They combined with freshman Annie Superchi and senior Grace Hanke to capture the 400 freestyle relay in 3:35.29. Between Class L and and LL, this is the seventh straight season that the Rams have won that event.

“That was great,” said Hanke. “We all push each other day in and day out.”

In the 200 freestyle relay, Barto sprinted alongside Superchi, freshman Gabrielle Williamson and sophomore Vanessa Anderson to win in 1:38.88.

Gajecki combined with Williamson, junior Carly Cahill, and Hanke to take runner-up (1:49.76) in the 200 medley relay.

In her state final debut, Superchi placed fifth in the 200- (1:58.66) and 100-yard (54.78) freestyles.

“It was such a good experience,” said Superchi. “I couldn’t have made it here without everyone’s support.”

Also for freestyle, junior Julia Tejeda took fourth in the 500 (5:15.58) and seventh in the 200 (1:59.48).

Williamson tied for fourth in the 50 (24.89) and recorded 12th place in the 100 breaststroke (1:11.87).

Hanke nabbed fifth in the IM (2:13.52), along with finishing 16th in the 100-yard butterfly (1:02.23). Cahill earned eighth in the 100 freestyle (55.67) and 14th in the 100 backstroke (1:03.78).

“The girls swam great and put up some fast times tonight,” said Traub.

CHS didn’t enter divers in this year’s state meet, but Rams still won six races and finished behind only four-time reigning champion Darien (620 points).

“We had one of the smaller teams, but we were a powerhouse and scored a lot of points,” said Hanke.

To end the season on Sunday, local swimmers travel to Yale University’s Robert J.H. Kiphuth Exhibition Pool for the State Open at 1 p.m.


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