Annie Behm places in top 10 at Speedo Junior Nationals

Behm, a 15-year-old swimmer from Cherry Hill, finished in seventh place in the 200-meter backstroke with a personal best time of 2:14.56.

Cherry Hill swimmer Annie Behm is not just one of the top young swimmers in the South Jersey region.

She’s also made a huge splash in the pool on the national stage.

Behm, a rising sophomore at Cherry Hill High School East, put up her best performance yet at the 2018 Speedo Junior Nationals earlier in August. Behm qualified for the ‘A’ Finals of the women’s 200-meter backstroke and finished in seventh place. More than 80 swimmers competed in the 200-meter backstroke at the event.

Behm has been a competitive swimmer for about a decade, having first picked up the sport at 5 years old at local swim clubs.

“When I was 5 years old, I had swim lessons at Wahoos,” Behm said. “I also summer swam at Old Orchard, so those were both good foundations.”

However, early in her swimming career however, said her best event wasn’t backstroke — it was instead breaststroke.

It wasn’t until she was about 10 years old when Behm said she clocked in a fast time in the 200 backstroke in a Jersey Wahoos practice and realized her potential in the event.

“We work on all of the strokes at Wahoos so working on it consistently helped,” she said.

This year was Behm’s first time at the summer Junior Nationals, but she had tons of success prior to August.

Behm qualified for the 2017 Winter Junior Nationals and, at the high school level, finished in fourth place in the backstroke at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions as a freshman. Behm attributed her success in the backstroke to a number of factors.

“Backstroke provides a great opportunity for underwater work,” she said. “It’s different in that, unlike the other strokes, that you can consistently breathe all the time. Because I’m so tall, it also gives me an opportunity to use my length.”

Behm punched her ticket to Junior Nationals in June, when she clocked in with a time of 2:17:73 at the 2018 Summer Solstice swim meet at Gloucester County Institute of Technology. Entering Junior Nationals, Behm admitted she was nervous, but also optimistic she could place among the top swimmers.

“Going into the meet, they give you seeds,” she said. “I get really nervous where I know where I seed, but I knew from talking to my parents I knew that I could possibly make a final.”

“It was crazy to think about, but it was an exciting opportunity,” Behm added.

In the women’s 200-meter backstroke at Junior Nationals, there is an ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ final, with the top eight swimmers from preliminaries going to the ‘A’ Final, swimmers ninth through 16th going to the ‘B’ Final and swimmers 17th through 24th qualifying for the ‘C’ Final. Behm finished with one of the top eight times of the preliminaries, clocking in at 2:15.24, nearly 2.5 seconds better than her time from the Summer Solstice. Her time qualified her for the ‘A’ final.

In the ‘A’ Final on Aug. 1, Behm finished in seventh place with a time of 2:14.56, the best of her career so far. Behm’s swim broke the Jersey Wahoos open club record and ranks as one of the top-10 fastest times in the 15–16-year-old age group in the entire country this year.

Behm said she was proud of her accomplishment, especially as she was the youngest swimmer to qualify for the 200-meter backstroke ‘A’ Final at age 15.

“The atmosphere there is great,” she said. “There’s so many fast swimmers and everyone is pushing each other every race.”

“It’s so cool to be around a bunch of other people who care about the sport as much as you do,” Behm added.

Behm will compete in the 2018 Winter Junior Nationals again this December with an opportunity to break down another barrier. Winter Junior Nationals will be Behm’s first chance to qualify for the 2020 United States Olympic Trials.