CEDAR FALLS — Grace Frericks has leaped out of the starter’s blocks and into a pool of elite competition, while Dylan Moffatt is making a smooth first turn.
These two Cedar Falls High School swimmers recently took advantage of opportunities to see how they measure up against some nation’s top competitors.
Moffatt, a 16-year-old from Independence who swims with the Tigers, was exchanging greetings with Olympians such as Nathan Adrian in the locker room while participating in a three-event distance workload at the USA Winter National Championships hosted by Greensboro, N.C., in early December.
“It was a great opportunity, especially at this young age, to get some experience at that type of level of meet,” said Moffatt, who was the youngest swimmer in two of his three events. “I definitely stuck around to watch events that I didn’t swim in to learn a little bit more.”
Frericks’ career is starting to follow a similar trajectory after competing in the Winter Junior Nationals West Regional in Austin, Texas. The 14-year-old who attends Holmes Junior High went head to head with more experienced competitors as old as 18.
“All of the swimmers there were really fast and it was crazy,” Frericks said. “It really makes me want to push as hard as they are to get to that point. I want to be a swimmer in college and watching them and how hard they work and how good they are really pushes me.”
Moffatt has already established himself as the state’s top all-time distance swimmer, winning a championship in the 500-yard freestyle as a freshman and repeating his sophomore season while eclipsing Iowa’s record by over two seconds in 4:27.77.
The Cedar Falls junior is actually more comfortable swimming longer distances. His best finish at the National Championships was 13th in the 1,500-meter freestyle, while he added a 23rd-place effort in the 800 and finished 37th in the 400. Competing against everyone from professionals to collegiate All-Americans and college prospects, Moffatt finished above his seed ranking in every event.
“It was a great experience, especially the long distance events,” Moffatt said. “It’s great to see how other swimmers swim it, too, while you’re swimming it.”
Swimming with the Black Hawk Area Swim Team (BLAST) for the past six years, Moffatt has focused more on distance swimming since age 12.
“You get to see yourself get better every day in the pool and push yourself and challenge yourself every day,” Moffatt said. “We’ve had a lot of great coaches that have really helped me push towards my goals.”
Among the lessons Moffatt has already learned through his dedication to the sport, “Challenges will come and go and pain always comes and goes. Pain doesn’t say with you forever. It might last a day or a week, maybe a month, that’s the most.”
Now switching gears in the middle of his high school season, Moffatt is forced to become more of a sprinter due to the more limited list of events offered by the state.
“It’s a big adjustment going from distance to sprinting because the 500 (yard freestyle) is pretty much a sprint,” Moffatt said. “That 4-minute mark is going to be coming up fast as I age.”
Moffatt, who says he’d like to swim at a college in the Southeast, has already generated plenty of recruiting buzz. He says he’s been contacted by quite a few Division I coaches and still has two more state meets to further cement his legacy.
For Frericks, her career is just starting to take off.
She grew up a four-sport athlete before a knee injury two years ago kept her off the basketball and volleyball courts and in the pool.
“I’ve always been a swimmer, but swimming wasn’t my main priority,” Frericks said. “When that happened, swimming was the best thing for my knee to get better. Now, I’ve just been swimming since.”
Frericks’ freshman state debut was highlighted by a second-place finish in the backstroke, one-tenth of a second away from a title. She added fourth-place finishes in the 50 freestyle and 200 relay and a sixth-place effort in the 400 freestyle relay.
After recovering from a brief illness, she resumed training three days after state. At Junior Nationals in Austin, Frericks finished in the 50-70 range in the 100 and 200 backstroke and 50 freestyle with nearly 200 participants competing in two of those events.
She now has her sights set on qualifying for the more exclusive summer Junior Nationals. Frericks credits BLAST’s new coach, Eddie Lary, for helping to improve her underwaters and technique.
With just three full seasons of high school swimming competition between the two of them, the future appears bright for both Moffatt and Frericks.