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  • Greg Lederer

Barto Finishes CHS Swim Career With All-American Honors

Updated: Jul 5

Swimmer Julia Barto was a key point-scorer for four years at CHS. Submitted photo.

For her senior season with Cheshire girls' swim, Julia Barto earned All-American in three events. Photo by Greg Lederer.

by Greg Lederer

Cheshire Sports Media

Last fall, Julia Barto finished a stellar swim career at Cheshire High School, but one more honor was awaiting her this summer. On Monday, Barto was announced as a National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association All-American for the second straight year.

NISCA recognizes the top-100 times in all of the high school events, along with diving scores. For swimming, the organization sets time standards for athletes to get automatic All-American, along with marks for them to be considered for the distinction after all submissions have come in for the school year. 

For 2023-24, Barto made the list in three events. She recorded a time of 2:01.30 to tie Cy-Fair High School (Texas) junior Sofia Luper for 48th place in the 200-yard individual medley.

Barto also placed 77th nationally in the 500-yard freestyle (4:55.12) and took the final spot in the 200-yard freestyle (100th, 1:50.12).

“It is definitely crazy when you put it that way,” said Barto, of being among the top-100 times in the U.S. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates and my coaches. They are the reason why I’m where I am today. I owe it all to them.”

She is the first Cheshire swimmer to earn All-American in three or more events since Liz Boyer. As a senior tri-captain in 2017, Boyer secured the honor for the 200-yard IM and 100-yard breaststroke, as well as the 200-yard medley and 400-yard freestyle relays.

Boyer went on to swim at Harvard University.

“I’ve known Liz since I was 6 years old. I’ve always looked up to her since I started swimming,” recalled Barto. “I had the privilege of swimming with her when she came back home during COVID (the pandemic). To be associated with her is a great feeling.”

Like Boyer, Barto takes pride in being an all-around swimmer. She likes how the IM encompasses the backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and freestyle.

“That (versatility) is something that I work on day in and day out,” stated Barto. “I don’t want to have a weaker stroke. I try to maintain all four strokes.”

Last year, Barto clocked two of her nationally-ranked times in the Class L final at Cornerstone Aquatic Center in West Hartford. In winning the 200-yard IM with her automatic All-American time, she broke Boyer’s CHS record (2:02.86, 2017) and eclipsed the meet record of New Canaan’s Meghan Egan (2:01.91, 2015).

“I was working toward the school record for a few years, so it was great to get that,” reflected Barto.

Egan actually swam with CHS girls’ swim head coach Matt Traub at Boston University.

“I had no idea what the meet record was,” said Barto. “It was a nice surprise.”

Barto also won the Class L 500-yard freestyle. While coming up short of automatic All-American, she put herself in position to eventually get that distinction by going three seconds under the consideration mark.

“I was hopeful that I would get the 500 free,” recalled Barto. “I had my fingers crossed. I’m happy that I’m finally confirmed now.”

For Class meets, the 200-yard IM and 500-yard freestyle were Barto’s first individual victories.

Additionally in the L final, she picked up gold medals on relays. In the 200-yard freestyle, Barto teamed with freshmen Gabrielle Williamson and Annie Superchi and sophomore Vanessa Anderson to win in 1:38.88.

Barto, junior Natalia Gajecki, Superchi, and senior Grace Hanke finished the meet with a victory in the 400-yard freestyle event (3:35.29). In that relay, the Rams have been class champions for seven straight seasons.

“There is no better feeling that swimming for relays. You are swimming for more than yourself,” explained Barto. “It was good to include the underclassmen like Annie Superchi (last year). It (that experience) is something I’ll never forget.”

In her final season, Barto received Southern Connecticut Conference Division I Swimmer of the Year. For the title meet, she won the 200-yard freestyle (1:50.12) and the 100-yard butterfly (55.86), along with the 200- (1:39.91) and 400-yard (3:35.53) freestyle relays, to take home the Most Outstanding Swimmer award for the second consecutive year.

Her 200-yard freestyle time qualified for All-American consideration and she ended up getting the last spot on the national list.

“I’m really proud of how the season turned out,” stated Barto. “I couldn’t ask for much better.”

For her final State Open, Barto placed runner-up to Greenwich senior Payton Foster in the 200-yard IM (2:01.58) and 500-yard freestyle (4:55.52). She added top-five times with her 200- (fifth, 1:40.56) and 400-yard freestyle (third, 3:35.21) squads.

In and out of the pool, Barto enjoyed being a senior tri-captain with Sella Cahill and Hanke. Barto’s older sister Mary had the same role for her senior season in 2020.

“It was definitely something that I watched my older sister do,” reflected Barto, of being a captain. “I was honored that my teammates chose me. It was great to work with Sella and Grace.”

Barto enjoyed following in her sister’s footsteps as a key contributor throughout her Cheshire career. As a junior, she captured State Open titles in the 200-yard IM (2:03.05) and the 100-yard backstroke (56.57).

Since her IM time ended up ranking 90th in the country, she picked up her first All-American nod on the 2022-23 list.

“I was proud that I was All-American after getting consideration (with my time),” recalled Barto. “I knew that I could get up higher in my senior year. I’m happy to have done that.”

As a senior, she contributed to the Rams going unbeaten (8-0) in dual meets. Cheshire placed second in the SCC and Class L meets, along with finishing third in the State Open.

“It is crazy that it (my Cheshire career) is over,” said Barto. “I’m happy for all the girls I met and all the memories I made along the way.”

Barto has graduated from CHS, but plans to keep following the girls’ swim and dive team. Seniors Carly Cahill, Gajecki, Alicia Shatalov, and Julia Tejeda will captain the Rams this fall.

“I can’t wait to see what they do,” stated Barto. “They have a strong team and really good captains leading their way.”

Along with swimming for the Rams, Barto has competed in multiple state and national meets with the Cheshire Y/Sea Dog Swim Club. She has joined the program when she was 8.

“I’m proud to be on Sea Dog and swim for (Coach) Sean (Farrell),” said Barto. “He has done amazing things for me and a lot of other swimmers, too.”

Farrell feels that Barto provides a hard work ethic, tenacity, and competitiveness.

“She brings everything to the table,” stated Farrell. “She has enjoyed every step of the way.”

On a year-to-year basis, he recalls how the Sea Dogs have had to figure out what the best odd strokes will be for Barto.

“Julia is able to take any stroke and make her best stroke that year and you don’t see that very often,” explained Farrell.

The Sea Dogs bring together boys and girls from around the state.

“I’m super grateful for everything Sea Dogs has done for me,” reflected Barto. “It is nice to have people on the team from different towns and seeing them on deck during the high school season.”

After representing the Sea Dogs in the Long Course Senior Championships (July 11-14), Barto will get set to transition to swimming at Pennsylvania State University.

“I’m so excited. I’m in touch with the coaches and all of the girls in my class,” said Barto. “I’m sad to leave all my CHS and Sea Dog girls, but I’m excited to see what happens there (at PSU).”

“She loves the place. I’m excited for her,” added Farrell. “She is without a doubt a Division I athlete. I think it should be a good fit.”

Tim Murphy leads the Penn State program. Last season, the Nittany Lions finished ninth in the Big-10 Conference.

“I want to swim in the conference meet and help the team as best as possible. I want to have a smooth adjustment to college,” stated Barto. “It is definitely going to be a challenge. That is the only way you get better. You need to push yourself.”

She is appreciative of her family’s support in her swim career.

“I couldn’t be where I am without them,” recalled Barto. “It was great to have them there on Senior Night and all of the other meets. It will be hard not having at all the meets (in college), but I know they’ll be supporting me from Cheshire.”

From left, Cheshire swimmers Annie Superchi, Grace Hanke, Julia Barto, and Natalia Gajecki posed with the Class L runner-up plaque last fall. Photo by Greg Lederer.

Last fall, Julia Barto signed to extend her swim career at Penn State University. Photo by Greg Lederer.

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