It's hard to imagine a swimmer more perfectly suited to be a leader for the Fremd girls swimming team this fall than senior Breanna Anderson.
The standout freestyler has been the model of consistency for a team loaded with young, talented competitors.
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And Anderson is leading the way in the pool by demonstrating how to harness perhaps the most valuable skill a swimmer can possess.
"I've never had somebody who closes races out quite as well as Breanna," said Fremd coach Andrew Kittrell. "She swims with such heart and such passion. That's a difficult thing to teach, and it's something she's always had."
It comes in especially handy on Fremd's freestyle relays, which usually are anchored by Anderson. Her efforts last season helped the Vikings qualify to the state meet in both freestyle relays, but except for Anderson, this year's groupings will feature almost entirely new quartets.
Yet expectations remain high for Fremd's team opportunities at the state meet, and that confidence can be traced back to Anderson.
A two-time state meet qualifier in both the 50- and 100-yard freestyles individually, she's managed to take a personal quantum leap forward this year. In the midst of rigorous training this fall, she's already matching her best times from last season. That means it's quite logical to expect significantly faster performances at year's end -- quite possibly the kind which end up scoring points for the Vikings.
"I feel really good about where I am," said Anderson. "For me, it's all about trying to swim on Saturday at state (in the consolation or championship finals). That's something I haven't done yet, so that's really what I'm shooting for."
Plenty of water needs to go under the bridge before the state meet, though, and Fremd isn't losing sight of that. The Vikings travel to Barrington for a dual meet Thursday featuring two of the Mid-Suburban League's elite swimming programs. Both programs have been looking forward to the contest, and it'll be a showcase of terrifically talented athletes.
Anderson's ability in the freestyle sprints as well as the 200 freestyle, 100 backstroke and even 200 IM gives Kittrell the kind of lineup flexibility that comes in handy while trying to knock off a team that has won 20 straight overall league titles.
Perhaps more important to Fremd is the steadying influence Anderson has on such capable, if less experienced, teammates. She's become a true leader for her team.
"She's earned that," Kittrell said. "We're talking about somebody who has really put in the work. Every year, she's accepted the challenge of making herself a better swimmer. The other kids understand that and want it to work for them, too."
After a recent dual meet victory over visiting Palatine, Anderson was having fun chatting on deck with a group of Palatine Park District swimmers perhaps half her age before their practice was to begin.
It's obvious she enjoys sharing her joy for the sport -- as well as providing a demonstration of how to succeed in it.
"Our team motto this year is 'Finish,' " she said. "For me, it works on a couple of different levels. It's what we want every swimmer to do, in every race. But for me, being a senior, it's . . . this is my last chance. I really want to finish the right way."