Early on in the 500 freestyle, Mikayla Rogers thought she was swimming slower than her usual pace during Saturday’s state championships at Brown University.
When she looked up, she realized just the opposite. Rogers had made history.
The Toll Gate sophomore swam a 5:28.16, shattering her own personal best and the school record. Her record-setting swim propelled her to a third-place finish, one of the best showings for a Warwick swimmer in recent memory.
“It feels unreal,” Rogers said. “I looked up and looked at the time and couldn’t believe it. I lost my breath automatically. I was hoping to go out and swim my best time, and that was better than I could have asked for.”
South Kingstown claimed the team title with 310 points, while North Kingstown finished second. Toll Gate finished 15th while Warwick Vets took 16th. Pilgrim finished in a tie for 20th.
Rogers was Warwick’s brightest star on the biggest stage, as she also took fifth place in the 100 butterfly. Warwick Vets’ Katie Evans had a big day as well, taking fourth in the 100 fly and 12th in the 500.
But Rogers’ third-place in the 500 free was the benchmark. She had finished in second place in the same event at the Division II-meet, swimming in 5:33.13.
She was seeded fifth entering states.
“Mikayla is a great example setter, of how hard work and dedication can get you where you need to go,” Toll Gate head coach Mike Seidenberg said.
Cumberland standout Courtney Kent blew away the competition – as expected – finishing the race in 4:59.29, while second-seeded Gabreielle Dunkie took second. Rogers, swimming faster than she ever had, found herself in a battle for third place with Rogers’ Beatrix Lavigueur.
As they neared the finish, Rogers reached out and grabbed the wall first, edging Lavigueur by 20 hundredths of a second. Rogers broke the Toll Gate record in the event by four full seconds
“I was really focusing on every minute of the event, and it felt like it was taking a long time,” Rogers said. “This sounds weird, but my friend, I could hear her cheering. It made me kick it into gear and I realized how fast I was going.”
Her coach noticed it earlier, as her splits were going down the longer the race went on.
“It was a fabulous swim,” Seidenberg said.
Evans also had a strong swim in the 500. Though she qualified ninth and finished 12th, she was pleased with the swim. Her 5:46.12 wasn’t far off from her qualifying time.
She also had to make a late adjustment, as she was bumped into the final heat because one swimmer wasn’t racing. That moved her into one of the side lanes and changed the circumstances a little bit.
“Mentally, I know Courtney Kent is crazy, so swimming with her is kind of intimidating,” Evans said. “Once she laps me I kind of lose my pace. It definitely gave me more confidence, but it also put me in a slower lane.”
Earlier in the day, in the 100 fly, both swimmers excelled. Rogers had finished in fourth place at the D-II meet, while Evans was coming in fresh off of a victory in the event at the D-III meet.
Rogers had qualified in 10th place at 1:05.73, while Evans had qualified in seventh at 1:03.84. They each out-swam those times.
First it was Rogers, swimming the second-to-last heat, who put up a strong time. She won the heat in 1:03.49, very close to another school record.
Then, it was Evans’ turn. She swam a personal-best time of 1:02.75, finishing fourth overall.
“In my fly, I really wanted to be second-team All-State,” Evans said. “I missed it by less than a second – I got out-touched. But I’m still really happy. Everyone is so good this year. The competition is getting better, so I just have to get better with it.”
While Evans and Rogers each experienced some individual success, Pilgrim had some team success thanks to its 400 free relay, the last event of the day.
Just two weeks ago, the Pats’ foursome of Sophia Caracuzzo, Abby Slater, McKenzie Caron and Taylor Ryan were swimming the event at close to 4:40.
But in the D-III meet, that group cruised to a personal best time of 4:24.10, good for a second-place finish.
They carried that momentum into Saturday.
Once more, the Pats set a new personal best. They swam to a 14th-place finish in 4:23.56, scoring the team’s only six points of the day.
“We don’t have many sports programs at Pilgrim that compete with the best in the state, and this is one of them,” Pilgrim head coach Nisa San Giovanni said. “I’m very pleased.”
Ryan swam the fastest of the four, as her anchor time was 1:03.22.
“The thing with relays, when you swim an individual thing, you have your team supporting you, but there’s no one else riding on you,” Ryan said. “If you do bad, it’s all on you. With a relay, it helps out three other girls.”
Pilgrim’s swimmers also competed in a few other events throughout the day. Ryan took 17th in the 100 fly, while Caracuzzo took 24th in the same event. Ryan also finished 27th in the 200 individual medley, and Caracuzzo finished 31st in the 500 free.
Slater finished 24th in the 500 free and 25th in the 100 free. The Pats’ group of four took 19th in the 200 medley, as well.
Toll Gate’s Nina Yu competed too, and she finished 29th in the 100 backstroke and 30th in the 200 IM.