Brittany Menzer and Catrionna Bruce first crossed paths five years ago in the fourth grade at Westview Elementary School. New to the district, Bruce was a move-in from Denver.
They then went to Troy Intermediate School together in fifth and sixth grades. A friendship of sorts started last year from gym class at Learwood Middle School, but it wasn’t until this year that things took off.
The two Avon Lake High freshmen are big reasons why the Shoregals are enjoying their best season in 10 years. The Avon Lake girls finished fourth at the Cleveland State Division I Sectional on Feb. 6. It was their first top-four finish at sectionals since a third place at the 2003 Lakewood Sectional.
Menzer and Bruce each qualified to districts in two individual events and two relays. Menzer advanced in the 50 free and 500 free, Bruce in the 100 free and 100 back. They also qualified as members of the 200 free and 400 free relays. The Shoregals also advanced their 200 medley relay, plus sophomore Devan Rybarczyk in two individual events. Three divers also qualified for the Avon Lake girls.
It’s quite a contrast from a year ago. Two divers and no swimmers advanced to districts from a Shoregals team that finished only 12th at sectionals.
Menzer and Bruce recognize what each brings to the team.
“Brittany always has a positive attitude and she’s very funny,” Bruce said. “A lot of the upper classmen think of her as a little sister.”
Menzer won the sectional 500 free at CSU on Saturday in a school-record time of 5:13.79 and advanced at-large with a fourth-place finish in the 50 free (25.10).
“I remember Cat from the fourth grade, but I had no idea that she was a swimmer at first,” Menzer said of Bruce. “I really started to know her in eighth grade when we had gym class together. I found out then that she swam for the Westlake Waves and was very talented.”
Menzer’s swim career started at age six. She swam a couple seasons for the Avon Lake Rec team before switching to the Lake Erie Silver Dolphins in Gates Mills.
“Cat has a lot of confidence,” Menzer said. “She’s a fierce competitor that’s always focused. Cat knows what she wants going into the race.
“Her 100 free at sectionals was awesome. Hopefully, her (relay) leg can help us get to state.”
Bruce finished third in the 100 free (54.77) as the No. 10 seed. She also finished fourth in the 100 back (1:02.60). Both marks were in career-best times.
Both are very dedicated in the classroom. Menzer carries a 4.66 grade-point average and Bruce has a 3.7 GPA.
“We have four coaches that help with the team,” Bruce said. “When I swam for my rec team, we only had one coach, so I’ve had a lot more coaching. We’re trying to do all the little things right to be prepared for Saturday – taper, eat right and get plenty of rest. I’ve tapered before. It doesn’t mean it’s easier, but you get more rest.”
Avon Lake coach Steve Manderfield has enjoyed the ride.
“The coaching staff couldn’t be more pleased with my girls’ dedication, persistence and determination,” Manderfield said. “They brought back a level of athleticism to our program. They’re rookies to high school swimming, but not to competitive swimming. I enjoyed watching them both get up for their races this past weekend. They weren’t intimidated. They were aggressive and determined. All their hard work will take them far.”
Menzer is the No. 2 seed in the Northwest District for the 500 free and No. 6 in the 50 free. Bruce is the No. 5 seed in the 100 free and No. 8 in the 100 back. The Shoregals’ 200 free relay is the No. 4 seed (1:43.95) and the 400 free relay is No. 7 (3:48.03).
The top six divers and the top two individuals/relays per event plus 14 at-large individual/relays in each swimming event from the five statewide districts advance to the state meet in Canton on Feb. 20-23.
“It’s been a great team atmosphere,” Menzer said. “Everyone is in your corner. That stronger inner belief has carried us in practice. That’s where you do all your pace work, all your sprint work. I love working with the different coaches. If one coach tells me something and I don’t quite understand it, another coach can explain it to me so I’ll get it. I’ll then be able to fix what I need to in my stroke.”
- WHAT: Division I swimming competition
- WHEN: Saturday, 3 p.m.
- WHERE: Bowling Green State University’s Cooper Pool
- WHAT: Division II swimming competition
- WHEN: Friday, 3 p.m.
- WHERE: Cleveland State University’s Branin Natatorium
Contact Paul Heyse at 440-329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.