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High School Swimming Preview: Monahan not one to settle for second




To outsiders, Bailie Monahan’s second-place finish in the 100-meter butterfly at last season’s Group AAA state meet was quite an impressive feat. But Monahan was one of the few people who knew that a fluke injury might have kept her from a state title.

About a week before the meet, Monahan slapped hands with a teammate after she got out of the pool during swim practice. Somehow this lacerated one of her fingers, and blood began to gush.

The accident required 10 stitches, and it hindered Monahan’s quest for a state title. She had to learn how to make turns without tearing the stitches, which were covered by medical tape when she swam. She winced in pain whenever she grabbed the wall, and the water irritated the wound a bit more with each stroke.

So when Monahan placed second despite these hindrances, her friends and family were ecstatic. But Monahan thought about how close she had come to something more.

The second-place finish motivated her throughout the offseason—though in the world of a competitive swimmer, there really is no offseason—and she enters this year, her senior year, with a healed hand and an unmistakable goal.

“I know she’d love to go out her senior year winning an event at states,” Colonial Forge coach Georgia Rathje said. “I know that’s definitely motivating her.”

Monahan, who also placed ninth at the state meet in the 50 freestyle, is anticipating a banner year. She has not lost a race in a dual meet since she was a freshman, and she does not want that streak to be snapped.

She has improved her breaststroke since last season, potentially making her a threat in the 200 IM as well.

“I think my IM is going to pull ahead this year,” she said.

Rathje said she has never meddled with Monahan’s strokes. The two simply work on things such as quicker starts and turns. Rathje said she thinks Monahan will clip some time from her already blistering 50 freestyle this year.

“Pretty much anything I throw at her that I think will be challenging, even if the interval seems unachievable, she’ll go for it and she’ll get it,” Rathje said.

Many elite swimmers are focused mostly on their club teams, but Monahan said the school spirit that flows at high school meets is unmatched.

When Monahan attends Eagles practices, Rathje said, she often helps the younger swimmers as a kind of assistant coach.

“I think we have a great team,” Monahan said. “Hopefully we can win districts.”

Last month, Monahan committed to swim for East Carolina next season. But first she has a senior year to cherish, a senior year with unfinished business.

“She had a great season last year,” Rathje said. “But this year, I think she’ll be even better.”

Adam Himmelsbach: 540/374-5442