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Swimming with Norwalk's Olympic hopeful

By Jim Busek • Jan 6, 2020 at 8:30 PM

Swimming is not really my sport.

Oh, I’ve known how to swim since I was 10. But that was farm pond swimming, the only kind us rural community kids ever knew.

As for real, athletic swimming — doing the right strokes in the right way — well, that’s something altogether different.

I did some sprint triathlon races a few years ago. And they had a swimming component — usually about 800 yards, a little less than half a mile. As you might imagine, I did not want to get a quarter mile out and have a problem. So I took some swimming lessons and learned how to do a rudimentary crawl stroke.

That got me into the habit of swimming a couple of mornings each week at the Ernsthausen Recreation Center.

And that’s where I have had the privilege of sharing the pool with Geena Freriks a couple of times.

The most recent such encounter was just before Christmas. And like each previous time, I could not stop watching Geena swim. Awestruck.

If you have read this newspaper over the past several years, you have probably know something about Geena Freriks.

She was one of the all-time great volleyball players at Norwalk High School.

But it was her swimming that earned her a scholarship at the University of Kentucky.

That means she has competed in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) against some of the most famous colleges in America: Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Auburn, Texas A&M, and so on.

To say she has done well is a gross understatement.

The UK website is filled with her records, accolades and photos of her competing all over the country. She holds school records in all four of her events: the 100 200, 800 and 1500 meter distances. She is a two-time SEC champion, six-time NCAA All-American, three-time NCAA Academic All-American and a U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier.

She has already been competitive in races with five-time Olympic medalist Katie Ledecky.

And in competition last summer she finished ahead of Missy Franklin — another five gold medal winner — in the 200. Ahead of Missy Franklin, one of America’s all-time great Olympic swimmers!

And now Geena Freriks, the Norwalk girl who was swimming in the very same water as I a couple of weeks ago, has a shot at the Olympics, too.

So when she swims, I watch. But I don’t watch her swim because of her celebrity.

No, I watch to observe what the Johnny Tillotson song called poetry in motion.

In competition, there is so much noise and thrashing you don’t get to truly appreciate the beauty of an athlete gliding through the water. But on a weekday at The Rec, someone who swims like an Olympian really stands out.

Geena Freriks is tall and lithe with graceful arms and legs. Her shoulders are broad but not bulky like you often see on swimmers.

She travels the length of the pool using half the number of strokes as I, flip turning at each end and gliding several meters underwater before surfacing.

Her backstroke is likewise a thing of beauty, athletic arms rotating smoothly with just the gentlest wake trailing as she glides through the water.

Can you tell I’m a fan? I’m not sure whether I have made it clear to Geena or not; every time I talk with her I end up a little tongue-tied in my hero worship.

As for you, you may not be a swimmer or interested in swimming. I get that.

But I felt compelled to write this in the same way you want to tell someone after you have just seen a spectacular sunset or other natural phenomenon.

That’s how I feel every time I watch Geena Freriks swim.

Jim Busek is a freelance writer who lives in Norwalk. He can be reached vie email at jimbusek@hotmail.com.

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