It’s debatable whether Kaylee Judy is more excited about qualifying for Friday’s Division II district swimming meet or just getting the chance to swim at Cleveland State again.
“I’ve been racing at CSU for 10 years,” the Elyria Catholic senior said. “I’ve raced in Florida, Mississippi and Indianapolis. Of all the pools I’ve been at, CSU is by far my favorite pool. I’ve raced the best there. It’s a very fun experience for sure.”
Judy and freshman Katie Susi have been catalysts for a Panther resurgence this season, leading the team to third at last week’s sectional at the University of Akron after placing fifth a year ago.
Judy won the 100 back (1:03.50) and was second in the 100 free (56.57), while Susi was second in the 200 IM (2:17.41) and third in the 100 breast (1:08.48).
They also teamed with Emma Arra and Nina Kurtzweil for a first in the 400 free relay (3:52.72). Judy, Susi, Kurtzweil and Sidney Willis were third in the 200 medley relay (1:58.55).
“I’m just going into districts looking to have fun and race,” Judy said.
“Neither one of us was tapered for sectionals. It’s kind of a new experience for both of us. I’m just looking forward to it. I’m excited. I just want to get up and race and go fast.”
Despite being a freshman, Susi brings a wealth of experience to the lineup. Last spring she made the YMCA Short Course Nationals in the 200-yard breaststroke at the Greensboro Aquatics Center in North Carolina as a member of the Vermilion Y Torpedoes. She also made Y Zones in 2015, ’17 and ’18 and has already qualified for this year’s event.
“I just want to go out and have fun and see what kind of times I can actually swim,” Susi said.
“We both swam pretty tired for sectionals last Friday,” Judy said. “I think we’re both looking forward to feeling actually good when we race.”
Elyria Catholic faces a tough task in a district loaded with talent led by state power Hawken, along with Gilmour Academy and Hathaway Brown. Although the Panthers scored well at sectionals, they’ll have a difficult path trying to make it to state.
Susi holds the highest seed with the No. 6 seed for the 100 breast (1:08.48) and is the No. 10 seed in the 200 IM (2:17.41). Judy is the No. 10 seed in the 100 free (56.57) and 100 back (1:03.50).
The Panthers’ 400 free relay is seeded No. 6 (3:52.72) and the 200 medley relay is 10th (1:58.55).
“I just want to go out there, swim my hardest and see what my times are,” Susi said. “One of my goals is to go to state for the 100 breast. Hopefully, my time at district will be good enough.”
Judy plans to continue her swim career in college at the Division II level for either Delta or Chowan. She plans to major in criminal justice with a minor in psychology.
She swam for Amherst as a freshman but gall bladder surgery ended her season early. As a sophomore she only competed in club swimming because she was ineligible as a transfer. Injuries to her hip and back she suffered in a midseason car accident last year limited her to the 100 fly and the 200 and 400 free relays at districts.
“This is actually the first time I’m going into postseason healthy, ready to swim and actually feel like I’m able to do something,” Judy said. “Every time I raced last year our assistant coach had to stand behind the blocks in case I needed help being pulled out of the water. Many times I couldn’t walk right after I raced.”
Now, she’s healthy and ready to make some memories.
“I want to go in and remember everything that’s happening, remember the experience and enjoy it with Katie since it’s her first year,” Judy said. “It’s a very cool experience with this being my last year and this being her first year. We just want to have fun with our relays. Our relays are very, very close. Yes, I want to go out and race and have fun but I also want to enjoy everything as a whole and kind of not take it for granted.”
Willis (100 free, 100 back) and Kurtzweil (100 breast) will also compete individually. Willis missed the second half of last season following major shoulder surgery.
“Kaylee and Katie both have been good role models and examples to the younger swimmers in how to train and work in a year-round sport,” EC coach Scott Pezce said. “Kaylee has done a nice job coming back from injuries and Katie has been highly successful at the club level being one of the youngest swimmers at nationals for her event. Katie shares her club expertise with her teammates and is a very hard worker. Both girls attend morning practices and work very hard in the weight room and have very high goals for themselves. They work very hard to obtain them.”