J-M’s Jennah Fadely secures state swimming title with record-breaking performance

Captures title at NCHSAA 1A/2A Swimming State Championships

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CARY — A Chatham County swimmer made history in Cary last week, etching her name into record books and sewing her name onto a banner.

And yet, she still isn’t satisfied.

Jennah Fadely, a senior swimmer for Jordan-Matthews, competed in the NCHSAA 1A/2A Swimming State Championships on Friday, winning the state title in the women’s 100 breaststroke event with a 1A/2A state-record time of 1:02.11 (.03 seconds faster than the previous record of 1:02.14) and placing second in the women’s 200 IM (2:04.46), earning her a silver medal.

“When I finished the (100 breaststroke), I was really tired so I was like ‘Cool! I just want some water,’ so then I got out of the pool and went over and talked to my dad and we were pretty happy,” said Fadely, laughing. “When I was a freshman, I still had a long way to go. And so when I realized how far I’d actually come, it just made me really happy, really proud of myself.”

With her victory in the women’s 100 breaststroke, Fadely became the first-ever Jordan-Matthews state champion in swimming, an achievement she deemed “the icing on the cake.”

Started from the bottom

Just four years ago, a record-setting championship performance wasn’t even on Fadely’s radar.

As a freshman, she swam constantly, any chance she could get. She worked on improving her technique, perfecting her form and knocking off the portions of her strokes that slowed her down.

Even as a freshman, she qualified for states in the same events she would qualify for all four years of high school — the 100 breaststroke and the 200 IM.

In her first year at the state meet, she finished 13th in the women’s 100 breaststroke (1:11.64) and 16th in the women’s 200 IM (2:26.75). Her time in the 200 IM was good for last place in the consolation finals.

From that point forward, she would shift to “dryland training,” swimmers’ version of weightlifting and strength training, to improve her times.

“It started out just plain swimming, then we started adding in these things to help me build strength … making me stronger and faster in the water,” said Fadely. “I made a pretty big jump from being towards the bottom to being really close to the top.”

Her sophomore year, in 2019, she improved upon her 100 breaststroke time by more than five seconds, taking second place (1:06.04), and shaved 12 seconds off of her 2018 last-place 200 IM finish, coming in seventh (2:14.13).

Her junior year was even better as she again placed second in the 100 breaststroke (1:03.32) and fourth in the 200 IM (2:10.78).

The new training program — which focused heavily on strengthening her core — clearly worked.

This year, however, was a masterful finale that showcased just how much her hard work paid off.

From freshman year to senior year, she jumped 12 spots in the 100 breaststroke, shaving over nine seconds off of her 2018 time to set the 1A/2A state record and take first place.

In that same span, she leaped 15 spots in the 200 IM, trimming over 22 seconds off of her freshman-year time, placing second.

Raising the bar

Despite taking home a state title, Fadely’s goals weren’t quite met at Friday’s state meet.

“(In the 100 breaststroke), my ultimate time was to try and go under a minute — so 59 seconds or a minute flat or something like that would’ve been really nice,” said Fadely. “But even though I wasn’t able to reach my goal at the swim meet on Friday, I was still happy to see that I made more progress, because that’s all I can ask for, is to continually be making progress.”

Fadely plans to swim at Ohio’s Kenyon College when she graduates, the most successful swimming and diving program across all three NCAA divisions, with 57 national championships between the men’s (34) and women’s (23) teams.

She plans to use her time at Kenyon to improve upon her state-record 100 breaststroke performance, where she aims to not only knock her time under a minute, but also win an NCAA national championship as a team to add to her trophy case.

“After not really getting to my breaststroke goals this year, I think I’m probably going to set the bar higher (in college) because I really do think that I could’ve met those goals,” said Fadely. “In my freshman year, it would be pretty cool to bring home an NCAA title for our team.”

She partially attributes her narrowly missing her target breaststroke time to her exhaustion after the women’s 200 IM, saying she hasn’t “ever pushed myself so hard in one event.”

In actuality, her performance in the 200 IM, while not a first-place finish, might be what she’s most proud of.

“Placing second in the IM was totally unexpected for me because the IM is probably my third- or fourth-best event … so when I did, I think that’s what made me the happiest at that swim meet,” said Fadely. “I’ve been kind of stuck in a hard place, so to see it get so much faster on Friday, it just made me really happy.”

Throughout her four-year Jordan-Matthews career, Fadely has been coached by both her father and her sister, who have helped her reach where she is today through dedicated practice and training.

While both coaches are tough, with her sister — her 2021 coach — she at least gets to joke around a little more.

“These last four years have just been a great learning opportunity for me. It helped me learn about myself, learn about the best ways that I work, the best ways that I swim and just the best ways for me to train and take care of myself,” said Fadely. “I really couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Reporter Victor Hensley can be reached at vhensley@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @Frezeal33.


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