Positivity in the pool: Cavanagh brings strong work ethic, speed to Bishop Eustace swimming

Cavanagh's enthusiasm and infectious personality is leaving a lasting impact on the Crusaders.

Bishop Eustace junior Erin Cavanagh leads the pack in the 100-yard butterfly during last Wednesday’s dual meet against Cherry Hill East. Cavanagh placed second in the event at last year’s Meet of Champions.

Last March, Bishop Eustace swimmer Erin Cavanagh was involved in two of the closest races at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions.

In the 200-yard freestyle, she battled for the win with Mount St. Mary Academy’s Catherine Meisner, finishing 0.41 seconds behind her in second place. In the 100-yard butterfly, Cavanagh was again in a tight duel, this time with Bishop Ahr’s Sarah Hardy. Just 0.04 seconds separated the two at the finish.

Again, Cavanagh finished second.

What was it like to finish second in two of the tightest events at the season’s biggest meet? Stressful? Exhausting? Disappointing to come up inches short of being a state champion?

For Cavanagh, it was none of the above. She describes those races simply as fun.

“I love races like that,” she said. “I love when it’s exciting down to the very end. What I took away from it is I hope to get some races just like that this year.”

The good news for Cavanagh is she’ll get a chance to race with the state’s best again this season. The Bishop Eustace junior has already put up state qualifying times in four individual events and will have the opportunity to qualify for an “A” final at states for the third consecutive year.

Cavanagh is the youngest of four girls in her family. All three of her older sisters also competed in swimming. One of them, Breann, went on to captain the women’s swimming team at Franklin and Marshall. Another sister, Lauren, qualified for the Meet of Champions in three straight seasons from 2015 to 2017 and now swims for Towson University.

 

The year after Lauren graduated from Bishop Eustace in 2017, Erin arrived and made an immediate impact on the high school scene. As a freshman in 2018, she advanced to the Meet of Champions, finishing third in the 200-yard freestyle and 10th in the 100-yard freestyle.

Cavanagh’s success isn’t a surprise considering the high level she competes at in club. Swimming for Jersey Wahoos, she competed at the Speedo Junior National Championship last year and finished 18th out of 91 swimmers in the 200-meter freestyle.

Cavanagh believes her success is partially attributed to her mindset of focusing on times more than trying to beat the opposition.

“One really important thing that I always try to focus on is trying to do my personal best,” she noted. “When I go to meets, I like to just make sure to keep myself present in the competition and having fun. I hope that time standards and everything like that will come along with it, but I don’t put too much pressure on myself to meet any specific time standards.”

In addition to freestyle, Cavanagh is also talented in the butterfly and individual medley. Her versatility is critical for a Bishop Eustace team that is much smaller than most of its  opponents. Head Coach Stacey Hengst noted she can confidently put Cavanagh in any spot in the lineup, but she also doesn’t put too much pressure on her best swimmer.

Cavanagh competes in the 200-yard freestyle during last Wednesday’s dual meet against Cherry Hill East. Cavanagh has placed in the top three in the 200-yard freestyle at the Meet of Champions in each of her first two seasons.

“We try to make it a little bit more relaxing for her and not as stressful as club can be for her,” Hengst said. “Especially for an elite swimmer like her, (club) can be stressful at times and that’s part of the charm of high school swimming, is that it’s a little bit more laid back.”

Beyond her contributions in the pool, Cavanagh also brings an infectious enthusiasm and love for the sport to Bishop Eustace’s program.

“She’s always been very positive,” Hengst emphasized. “She’s always cheering on her teammates. She’s always encouraging everybody. She’s a little quiet, but she’s always at the side of the deck, cheering everyone on.”

“I love how, for Eustace, everything is for the team,” Cavanagh added. “Whether you’re trying to get first place or it’s a race in the middle of the heat, it’s great when everyone is just doing it for Eustace.”

Cavanagh will have plenty of options when she chooses her 2020 Meet of Champions events later this winter. While she mulls over those options, one thing Cavanagh isn’t too concerned about is where she’ll place when she gets there. Cavanagh said it would be nice to take first place at states this year after 2019’s two second-place finishes, but the experience of being there is far more important.

“I definitely believe it’s not something I have to focus on too much,” Cavanagh said about a first-place finish at states. “It’s more important to remember how much fun it is to race.”