Wethersfield High girls swimming coach Lee Schwartzman knows he has something special in junior Abby Francis.
“This is my 11th year [at Wethersfield] and there are only a few swimmers that you want as your anchor in a close meet, and she’s definitely one because she will deliver whatever it takes,” he said. “As low key as she is, once she knows it’s a race, it’s game on.”
She burst on the scene as a freshman in 2015 and set school records in four events. She also set the overall pool record in the 100 freestyle.
As a sophomore, she set varsity records in the 500 free and 100 breaststroke, and was named All-Courant honorable mention. She then placed second in both events at the Class L meet, and third and eighth in Open championships, giving the Eagles a 10th-place finish and a hope for an even better result in this year’s class meet on Nov. 15.
This year, Francis she set the pool and varsity record for the 200 individual medley as well as the varsity record for the 200 free.
But, despite her personal success, she never loses sight of the other swimmers around her.
“She is the ultimate team player,” Schwartzman said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the faster kids on the team or the slower kids, or if it’s an event that counts for points or not, she is always ultra-supportive of all of her teammates.”
Francis couldn’t agree more.
“I think swimming is a unique sport that brings individuality and a team aspect together,” she said. “Every meet I don’t really focus on my [time] records, I focus on the team and whatever is best for the team because that’s more important.”
Caroline Logan, a captain on the team, finds Francis’ attitude contagious, even as workouts get more strenuous leading up to finals.
“Throughout practice and meets she is encouraging to all of her teammates and lane mates,” Logan said. “Watching how fast she swims makes you want to keep up with her. But she is still so supportive and always happy for others.”
Part of being a team player is allowing Schwartzman to place her where the team needs her most during meets. This has meant Francis competes in almost every event throughout the season.
“She’s just a really valuable piece because she swims all the distances well,” Schwartzman said. “So, whether it’s a sprint, a 50 or a 100, it really is kind of a difference maker from a strategy standpoint. The other coaches always wonder which relay is Abby going to be in because they know they probably can’t win that relay.”
For the upcoming Class L and Open meets, Schwartsman plans to have Francis compete in the 200 and 500 freestyle, along with two other relays. The unbeaten Eagles hope to place in the top five at Class L finals, and Schwartzman expects a strong showing at the Open finals.
“I really like where we’re at because a lot of our kids haven't rested yet, they haven't shaved yet, and they haven't put on their fancy suits yet, where some of these other schools have already had conference meets,” Schwartzman said. “My kids know going in that even though they’re ranked kind of lower, we usually make a lot of movement upwards in the rankings at prelims.”
Francis holds the same enthusiasm and focus as Schwartzman and the rest of the team.
“When I hit the water it’s kind of different,” Francis said. “I just forget about everything that’s been bothering me and I just race because I know that the team is counting on me.”
This determination keeps Francis at the top of her competition, and her love of the team keeps her grounded as she pursues her passion.
“The team loves her because of the fact that she's not this untouchable athlete that’s so good that she doesn’t care about them,” Schwartzman said. “If something happens to [Francis], practice would stop, not because it’s the fastest swimmer on the team, but because it’s Abby and we all love her.”