Gao and Conforti head to States

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

Cool and collected: Caroline Conforti, a sophomore, qualified for States for the first time in her Guilderville swimming career; she’ll compete in the 100-yard backstroke this weekend at Ithaca College. Here, Conforti practices her stroke on Wednesday.

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

True vision: Kelly Gao, who is competing at States for the Guilderville swim team for the second straight year, says that vision is the key to her ability. Here, Gao looks across the Voorheesville pool during practice on Wednesday. She’s swimming in the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle in Ithaca this weekend.

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

Cutting through the water on Wednesday in Voorheesville is Guilderville swimmer Kelly Gao, who is competing at States for the second consecutive year. She’s won back-to-back sectional championships in the 50-yard freestyle.

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

Coming up for air is Caroline Conforti, a sophomore swimmer for Guilderville. She’ll be racing in the 100-yard backstroke at States this weekend. 

Guilderville swimmers like to laugh and have fun, but they’re serious in the pool. Head Coach John Urbanski believes that Kelly Gao and Caroline Conforti, the two swimmers headed to States this weekend, are the ideal reflection of Guilderville’s demeanor.

“There’s the serious side in Kelly, and then there’s this goofy side from Caroline,” Urbanski said at practice on Wednesday in Voorheesville. “Together, they’re a nice pair, how they come together, and work together really well. It’s the perfect blend of seriousness and fun.”

Gao, a junior, is competing at States for the second year in a row. Conforti, a sophomore, is going for the first time. The event will be held on Friday and Saturday at Ithaca College. The top 30 competitors in each event during prelims on Friday will advance to race on Saturday.

Gao won the 50-yard freestyle at the Section 2 Championships for the second consecutive season, posting a personal best time of 24.38. She also placed third in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 54.24; her personal best is 54.00.

“We do like to have fun; it’s all about having fun,” said Gao. “Working hard is important, too. We like to swim fast, so the only way to get there is to work hard. It’s a solid mix.”

Conforti, who was third at sectionals in the 100-yard backstroke with a mark of 59.92, agrees with Gao. “We do a lot of things to maintain that aspect of fun, but, in the pool, we know that, if we don’t work for it, we don’t achieve the goals that we want,” she said. “We had a really good season; we worked hard for it.”

Guilderville had a team goal of six wins this season, and the team met its mark with a 6-3 record. Guilderville placed fifth at sectionals with 190 points.

Gao realized her purpose by winning the 50-yard freestyle again, but wants to push harder at States. ‘I’m pretty happy,” she said.

Wanting to break under a minute in the backstroke, Conforti did just that. Her personal best in the event is 59.89, and she hopes to get quicker at States.

“I’m really just hoping to have a good time,” said Conforti. “I want to take it all in. I have a lot of emotions, mostly excitement. I’m a little nervous; I’m competing against the top girls, so I don’t know how I feel about that. I’m hoping to do the best that I can, representing the team.”

Seeded 12th in the state in the 50-yard freestyle, Gao is striving for a top finish in the finals.

“Now that I know what to expect, I can mentally prepare myself better, and focus better,” said Gao. “As I focus on my races, I expect myself to get a better time, and go faster.”

How does Gao get into her mental zone?

“It’s all about visualization,” Gao said. “You want to picture every yard of the race…how you’re going to perfect it. Before the start of the race, you visualize it one last time; that’s how it works for me.”

Guilderville’s two best swimmers may be anxious about this weekend, but, mostly, they’re aiming for satisfaction and speed in the water.

“They have loose personalities, but they work so hard,” Urbanski said. “When it’s time to swim, they turn on the switch. They take themselves seriously, but not too much. They know how to enjoy the sport.”

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