Gillingham said goal is to have fun, record best time to end high school career

By Dan Truttschel

Sports correspondent


               Grace Gillingham

Competing at the state level is something that Big Foot senior Grace Gillingham has become accustomed to in her four years with the Chiefs.

And this weekend, she gets to add one more experience to that list.

Gillingham, who competes with the Badger Co-op team, is making a return to the WIAA Division 1 State Swim Meet today after she won the 100-breaststroke title at last week’s sectional meet with a time of 1:08.78.

As a junior, she swam the breaststroke leg of the 200-medley relay – but advancing as an individual is a different kind of a highlight, she said.

“It was one of the happiest moments of my career to see that I qualified and be embraced by the team and coach once I finished,” she said.

Gillingham, a three-time state track and field qualifier in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter relays, said she has one goal for this weekend.

“My hopes for state are just to have fun and go for a best time to end my career,” she said. “The energy inside the (UW) Natatorium is insane, and the adrenaline is so high when you’re in the zone and swimming your event. I can’t wait to feel that again.

“I’m most looking forward to ending my career on a high note, finishing out the season with my friends by my side and hopefully with a best time.”

Gillingham will compete in the first heat of the breaststroke. The top seed belongs to Verona junior Grace Bennin, who qualified with a time of 1:04.03.

As she prepared for her final high school swim meet, Gillingham also reflected a bit on her time with the co-op program.

Participating in such a program gives an athlete an unusual experience, as they work with athletes and coaches outside the building and from different towns – but it has been one to remember, she said.

“(It) was the best experience I’ve had throughout high school,” Gillingham said. “I’ve met my best friends because of it and have made lifelong memories with this team. It offered me the opportunity to have friends at different schools, which is a great thing to have that core throughout my high school years.”

When Saturday’s meet comes to a close, Gillingham will turn her attention to the winter months and the impending spring track season, where she will take a shot at a fourth state trip – but before she knows it, college will be on the horizon.

Nothing has been decided yet on where she will attend and if she will compete in either track or swim said the future business communications major.

But however that decision plays out, she does have one plan already in place.

“(I) will keep swimming for exercise, hopefully for my lifetime,” Gillingham said.


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