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Murtagh caps season with 16th-place performance in 100-yard backstroke

Monday, February 11, 2008

Greencastle junior Kelsey Murtagh gets ready to surface in the 100 backstroke consolation finals at Saturday's IHSAA State Finals in Indianapolis. Murtagh placed 16th with a time of 1:00.57
INDIANAPOLIS -- A first-time visitor to the IHSAA State Swimming Finals will notice there are various levels of competition going on at the meet.

At the top, one will find the Carmel girls' swim team, which won its 22nd consecutive girls' swimming state title Saturday.

Just below Carmel are the Hamilton Southeasterns and Homesteads of the world -- teams that compete in a lot of events and even win a few, but lack the firepower to win the actual meet.

Somewhere in the various strata below, you will find everyone else. There are those teams with a swimmer or two competing for individual titles and records. There are also those pleased to have someone back swimming on the second day of the meet, happy to be scoring points in the state meet at all.

They are all there, trying to climb up the ladder.

With the help of Kelsey Murtagh's effort at Saturday's finals, the Greencastle girls' swim team is making its way up those rungs.

Murtagh swam a 1:00.37 in the 100 backstroke consolation finals. The junior is the first Lady Tiger Shark to return for the second day of competition since Tracy Menzel in 2005.

"It's definitely a big thing for the Greencastle swim program and I'm proud of Kelsey for making it here," GHS coach Luke Beasley said. "It's disappointing that she didn't have her best race today, but that happens. We thought we had her in good shape and ready to go.

True, Murtagh's seed time was a 58.41, which would have placed her second in Saturday's heat and 10th in the state, but she and her coach were both pleased that she could still be around swimming on Saturday.

"It felt amazing. It is a really big accomplishment for me," Murtagh said. "I just think I was so caught up in being there with some of the fastest swimmers in the state, that it really didn't bother me that I didn't swim my best. It would have been nice."

Murtagh had a taste of the state finals as a sophomore, but was unable to place in the top 16 in Friday's prelims. Moving a step up to the Saturday meet was a big deal for her.

"It really meant a lot to me," Murtagh said. "My entire team has really been working hard all year and being in that situation, working hard pays off."

"I think this is a big stepping stone for her, just making it here. We're excited about the future and we're ready for next year," Beasley said. "Kelsey earned the right to be here."

With another year to go as a high school swimmer, Murtagh has set her sights on taking it one step further in 2009.

"I really want to go back and make it to the top eight and be able to stand up on the podium with those girls," Murtagh said. "It's a really big adrenaline rush and I'm glad I got to go this year.

"Next year, I'm going to try and knock it down to a 57 or 56 (seconds)," she continued. "It's going to be another big jump, but we're already thinking about next year."

Both coach and swimmer are looking toward next year from a team standpoint as well.

"It would be awesome to have other people from my team there," Murtagh said. "It's an awesome experience and I really wish everyone could know what it was really like."

"I hope it sends a message to our younger swimmers that they do have a place here and they can produce at the highest level of competition," Beasley concluded.

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