Girls Swimmer of the Year: Lily Buchholz, Skaneateles

Skaneateles' Lily Buchholz is The Citizen's Girls Swimmer of the Year. 

Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen

Skaneateles girls swimming coach Jill King knew she had something special in Lily Buchholz a year ago.

It was at the Section III, Class C championship meet in November 2016, where the Lakers qualified for the state championships in the 200 medley relay.

With the relay team pushing for a state berth, Buchholz showed King in her portion of the relay that she was ready to take her talents to the next level.

"Last year when I saw her in the relay and she maintained her time, and then saw the way she came in this year, I definitely knew that she had the potential," King said. "What I saw at sectionals in the relay (last year) I thought, ‘Oh this could be the day.’ She just blew that out of the water."

Buchholz, The Citizen's Girls Swimmer of the Year, carried that momentum into 2017. The sophomore qualified for two events at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships — the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke — and set program records in both events.

At states, Buchholz finished 39th in the 100 freestyle (54.25) and 44th in the 100 backstroke (1:00.96). Both were improvements on her initial seeds.  

No one could keep up with Buchholz at sectionals this season. She set a new program, pool and class record in the 100 freestyle by touching the wall in 53.86 seconds, which broke Ashlynn Gillfillan's school record of 54.81 set in 2015. Buchholz also won the 100 backstroke in 1:00.96 to top her previous best, and bettered that two days later at state qualifiers.

"I was pretty sure I was going to make the cut but I made it by a lot more than I thought I was going to," Buchholz said. "I think I was 48th out of 60 going in. I wasn’t focusing so much on winning the race as I was getting the cut time, but yeah I was pretty sure I was going to win that race.

"It’s kind of nice (to break a record). The girl who set it, Ashlynn, she came in when I was in my eighth-grade year and I think went a 55 that year and it was crazy seeing her go that fast. It’s cool to break that."

While the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke were her top events, Buchholz was among the Section III leaders in the 50 freestyle, 200 freestyle, 100 butterfly and 500 freestyle. She considers the 50 freestyle as one of her favorite events but also likes "to do things that I wouldn't expect to be good at."

Oddly enough, that's how Buchholz began competitive swimming.

"I’ve been swimming since I was 5 or 6, and I don’t really think I took it seriously until last year," Buchholz said. "It’s been something to do and it’s been a big part of my life. A lot of my time is spent in the pool. A lot of my best friends are through swimming. My sister did it and my mom told me I had to do a sport, and I wasn’t very good at soccer so it seemed like the best choice."

King noted that Buchholz has two more seasons and, "Before she graduates, she'll have done everything" including the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke. Having coached Buchholz since seventh grade, King believes she can still improve.

"The maturity is growing and growing, and she’s beginning to take on a little bit more of a leadership role on the team," King said. "The girls in the pool want to know what’s going on with her, or hear about her getting recognition. It’s fantastic because young swimmers will see. ...I think it’s attractive for young girls and helps build up the program."

Sports writer Justin Ritzel can be reached at 282-2257 or at justin.ritzel@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @CitizenRitz.

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