Grace Ariola’s First (and Last) High School Season Off to a Fast Start

After making waves at international junior meets and nearly making the 100 back final at the 2016 Olympic Trials, Grace Ariola is doing something she hasn’t done before: swim a high school season.

“I’m swimming for NCHS because it’s my senior year and I wanted to have this experience going into my freshmen year at Texas. It’s a different world of swimming that I haven’t been a part of, with the dual meet schedule and team atmosphere. I’m excited to represent my school and enjoy my senior year.”

Ariola, who usually swims for esteemed club Waves Bloomington/Normal Y Swim Team year-round, is currently in training with Normal Community High School. It’s the first and last high school season for the senior, who has already been setting records left and right in the first month of IHSA competition (though her first meet was on September 16th).

Here’s a quick rundown of the moves being made by Ariola, as she shakes things up with huge performances early in the season. Ariola’s swims are dismantling the notion that immediate Chicago suburbs and the North Shore area are the only places in Illinois where fast swimming happens– much like current NC State star and 2016 Olympic gold medalist Ryan Held did a few years back representing Sacred Heart Griffin.

  • Meet 1 (Sept. 16)
    • 50 free – 23.24. New pool and school record, which was held by former Tennessee star Lindsay Gendron’s record of 23.86.
    • 100 back – 54.27. New pool (58.88) and school (59.60) record.
    • 400 free relay – 3:34.18. Ariola split a 50.35 anchoring this relay, which broke the pool record.
  • Meet 2 (Sept. 23)
    • 200 medley relay – 1:47.23. Ariola led off with a 25.41 split, and the relay broke the school and pool record.
    • 200 IM – 2:04.76. Broke pool record, gets close to Gendron’s school record.
    • 100 back – 55.20. Broke pool record.
    • 400 free relay – 3:34.20. Anchored 50.01, almost hits school record again.
  • Meet 3 (Sept. 30)
    • 50 free – 23.72. Pool record.
    • 100 back – 55.02. Pool record.
    • 200 free relay – 1:38.48. Pool and school record (splits unavailable).

Ariola, who is coming off of an impressive showing at the 2017 World Junior Championships, could put together a very special yards season as she takes a few months off from her usual long course focus. Her PRs from this summer (24.8 50 free, 55.0 100 free, 28.1 50 back, 1:00.3 100 back) are very impressive, and she’ll likely have her eye on some IHSA records. Two of the most legendary IHSA records on the girls’ side, arguably, belong to Olivia Smoliga, who went 21.99 in the 50 free and 51.43 in the 100 back to set new national public high school records in 2012. Smoliga’s 48.88 also stands as the IHSA 100 free record.

Ariola’s bests in yards of 22.20 50 free, 48.98 100 free, and 53.04 100 back are not up to par with her LCM bests– she could certainly blow those all out of the pool at the IHSA Championships in November. For now, though, she’ll be smashing pool records at natatoriums downstate that have never seen someone quite as fast as her in history.

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I hope Grace enjoys her “Normal” experience!


Of note, Grace Ariola’s teammate Melissa Pish is also swimming her first high school season and has some shots at records of her own. Best times (1:46.06, 4:44.07), Records, (1:46.69, 4:46.66) I believe her best times from this season so far is a 1:51 in the 200 free and a 4:55 in the 500 free.


Damn no way. That’s definitely worth mentioning! Those times are legit

That’s true, Melissa’s been 1:50/4:55 already this season. Also been 51.4 in the 100. Broke school records in all 3, plus the 100 back and I believe the 200 IM and possibly 100 fly as well. She has also been taking down pool records mostly at the same meets Grace is. Also worth noting she is a former national jr. team member as well.


Can’t wait for downstate IL swimmers to show Chicago teams what we’re all about!!!

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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