NEW CANAAN, Conn. – New Canaan’s Maddie Rusch wrestled with the question. After careful consideration, she finally allowed that winning her fourth straight conference championship in the 50-yard freestyle was slightly more significant than winning her first State Open in the same event.
“Just because when I won the (Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference) as a freshman, we had a senior that was really good as well,’’ said Rusch, who was named The Daily Voice’s Athlete of the Month for New Canaan. “Winning four years in a row was a great feeling. That had never been done in that event. But winning the State Open was great, too.”
Rusch also finished second in the 100-yard butterfly at the State Open and was on two freestyle relay teams that won state titles. The 50 free, however, is the race in which she established an unbeatable standard in league competition.
“You really have to work on the start, it’s not something that comes naturally,’’ Rusch said. “Mine stinks. I’m lucky that my start is good for the high school season. I get demolished on the start in some of the big championship meets. If you’re born big, I feel like the start comes naturally because you have a lot power. If you’re a little scrawny, you really have to work at it.”
Rusch has been dedicated to swimming over the past four years. During middle school, she played softball on several New Canaan teams that played in national tournaments. Her sister, Tory, is a college softball player at Bowdoin College.
“I loved softball, it was hard to quit,’’ said Rusch, who was a third baseman on a team coached by John Walsh. “After eighth grade, I knew I had to start swimming year-round and hammer down on swimming. I’m glad it worked out the way it did.”
Last month, Rusch committed to attend Duke University to continue her swimming career. She will compete against some of the nation’s top swimmers in the Atlantic Coast Conference. “I really connected with the team, and North Carolina is not a bad place,’’ she said. “I had interest in a broad range of schools, but I thought Duke was the best fit for me.”