And Geena Freriks certainly did her part to make it another signature, standalone accomplishment.
The University of Kentucky senior swimmer was making her final dual meet appearance of her collegiate career on Friday. It happened to come in Ohio, as the Wildcats made the 90-minute trip north to the University of Cincinnati.
UK head coach Lars Jorgensen decided to have Freriks swim the 1,000-yard freestyle competitively one last time, since it’s not an official event at the SEC or NCAA championships.
The result was stunning.
When Freriks, a lifelong Norwalk resident and 10-time All-Ohioan at Norwalk and Sandusky, touched the wall on Friday, the time flashed and caused a double-take by everyone in attendance.
Her time was 9 minutes and 30.78 seconds. Not only was that nearly 11 seconds better than the 20-year-old UK mark — it currently stands among the top 20 best times in the world ever recorded, according to usaswimming.com.
USA Swimming ranks the top 250 times in the event, which dates back performances as far as 1997.
It was a massive time drop for Freriks, who entered the race with a previous best of 9:51.27 but ended with the 19th-fastest swim in the world.
“It felt really good, and I just went out for it,” Freriks said of her thoughts during the swim. “I really wanted the school record and I knew it had to take a special swim to break it, but when I saw my time I was honestly shocked.
“I didn’t know I could go that fast,” she added. “Lars said I was capable of going 9:30 earlier in the week, but that sounded really fast. I could see the whole team behind me cheering with every breath I took.”
The seven-time NCAA All-American and two-time SEC champion now owns five individual long-course program records and three individual short-course records. Freriks has also contributed to four program-record relays in her four years at Kentucky, and she narrowly missed out on a U.S. National team spot this past summer.
Not bad for a young girl who grew up swimming in the Norwalk Recreation Ernsthausen Aquatics Center.
“I owe a lot to my teammates, coaches and parents,” Freriks said. “Ending my collegiate dual meet season at Cincinnati was really great. Having my parents (Tim and Lisa) there supporting me like they always have the last four years and also having the team cheering so loud really motivated me to swim well.”
Freriks said she has always enjoyed swimming the 1,000 because of the preparation it gives her for the postseason.
“It’s a fairly comfortable race for me,” she said. “The first time I swam it collegiately was two years ago, also at the meet against Cincinnati and I went 9:53. Again, just shocked.
“After that, I started swimming it more in dual meets and had a pretty good strategy on the race,” Freriks added. “I wanted to end my college dual meet season on a really good note, and I’m really happy with my time.”
The record-smashing swim capped a monster month for Freriks.
In a tri-meet with Ohio State at the University of Florida on Jan. 4-5, Freriks won the 200, 500 and 1,000 freestyles and helped two relays to second and third-place finishes.
Against archrival Louisville in her final home meet, Freriks won the 500 and 1,000, was second in the 200 and anchored the first-place 400 free relay.
“Florida and Ohio State are both really good teams, so the majority of us swam our primary events each day. I swam my fastest dual meet times ever in the 200 and 500 free both days.
“The meet against Louisville was unbelievable,” she added. “I don’t even remember my times, but I’ll never forget the energy and extreme hype that the team displayed. It was a heated meet, but walking away with a victory on Senior Day was the best feeling ever.”
Following her big month and record performance, Freriks now shifts her attention to the final SEC and NCAA championship meets of her career.
The SECs will be held Feb. 19-23 at the University of Georgia, with the NCAAs slated for March 20-23 at the University of Texas.
Freriks will again swim the 100, 200 and 500 free along with multiple relays at the SEC championships. She won the 200 free in 2017 and the 500 free last season, becoming the third UK swimmer with multiple SEC titles.
“I am more excited this year for SECs and NCAAs than any other year, especially because I had a great summer and a great back-half of the season,” she said. “We have talked a lot about winning SECs as a team and also being a top 10 team in the NCAA.
“I believe we are fully capable of doing that this year,” Freriks added. “Words can’t describe how ready I am to race the fastest swimmers in the country.”
Geena Freriks career glance
— 10-time All-Ohioan at Norwalk and Sandusky
— Two-time SEC champion; Seven-time NCAA All-American
— UK record holder in five long- and three short-course events
— Part of four UK record relay swims
— Swam 19th-fastest 1,000-yard swim (9:30.78) in the world on Feb. 1.