DIf someone would have told Brunswick swimmer Lizzy Gehlmann three years ago that she would be the school’s first female state qualifier, she would have thought that person was joking.
Swimming was the furthest thing from Gehlmann’s mind. She was more into doing splits and toe touches.
“Cheerleading was my world,” she said.
Good thing for the Blue Devils that her world changed.
As an eighth-grader, Gehlmann tore her right anterior cruciate ligament when tumbling, forcing her to find a sport that wouldn’t aggravate the injury as much.
That sport was swimming, but it wasn’t all fun when she walked into her first Brunswick practice as a freshman.
“I hated it,” Gehlmann said with a laugh. “I went into the bathroom during one practice and balled my eyes out. I called my parents and asked if I could quit and they wouldn’t let me. I guess it was a blessing in disguise.
“Cheerleading just came naturally to me and swimming was hard. My freshman year, I was planning on quitting after the season was over.”
Gehlmann’s parents, James and Robin, talked her out of that, and this year she ended up putting together one of the best seasons in Brunswick history.
The junior had a hand in four schools records, two individual and two as a member of relays.
She also helped Brunswick secure its first conference title and highest team finish at the Akron North Division I Sectional (3rd) and Cleveland District (10th).
Gehlmann then earned a trip to the state meet in the 100 freestyle, making her an easy choice as Gazette MVP.
Gehlmann was hampered by a back injury for most of her sophomore season, but thanks to some stretching techniques suggested by Blue Devils coaches Erin Crabtree and Adam Crabtree, she was able to compete in the maximum number of events this year. That allowed her to rewrite the school’s record book.
“This year we were finally able to get her into individual events and focus on improving her strategy,” Erin Crabtree said. “She has an amazing kick and now she was able to get that kick without any back spasms. She was able to get it all back and she just ran with it.”
After being named Northeast Ohio Conference River Division Swim MVP, the 5-foot-9 Gehlmann broke the school record in the 100 free three consecutive weeks en route to earning an at-large bid to the state championships in Canton.
Gehlmann, who also was a district qualifier in the 50 free, 200 free relay and 400 free relay, broke 54 seconds for the first time in her career at the Cleveland District with a program-best time of 53.08.
With a year to go in her high school career, she’s already come a long way from her cheerleading days.
“Before every practice I would get stretched and at the end I would get stretched,” Gehlmann said. “Even if we were in a restaurant, (assistant coach) Adam (Crabtree) would tell me I needed to stretch.”
That stretching helped Gehlmann get her confidence back and lower her already fast area-leading times. Along with the 100 free, the 17-year-old also holds the school mark in the 50 free (24.86) and as an anchor on the 200 free and 400 free relays.
After swimming the second-fastest time of her career in the 100 at the state meet (53.69) but failing to make the finals, she ended the year performing at a very high level.
“My first year I didn’t how to swim and then as a sophomore I went down with that injury and didn’t feel like myself,” Gehlmann said. “This year I was able to swim like I used to and was relaxed.
“It all clicked when I broke the school record at our home dual (with Twinsburg). That was the beginning of my confidence, but I honestly wasn’t expecting the season to be like this. It was such an amazing feeling.”
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.