On weekends, there were meets all over New England, sometimes as far as New York. There wasn’t a whole lot of television in the Sergi household. Nor was there the time for the things that high school kids do: sleepovers with friends, late movies, birthdays.
“My dad would sit through practices, because it didn’t make sense for him to drive back to Newburyport to just turn around and come back to get me,” Sergi said. “I was too young to drive myself. I definitely owe a lot to my parents.”
Individually, Sergi enjoyed a stellar career at Solo, where she still ranks among its all-time leaders in four events: the 50-meter freestyle (second, 24.48) and 100-meter freestyle (sixth, 54.38) and the 200-meter backstroke (seventh, 2:12.95) and the 100-meter backstroke (eighth, 1:02.48), which drew the attention of Casares.
After committing to Bates, she threw Casares a curve. Instead of competing in the middle distances, Sergi wanted to be a sprinter. “We had a lot of talented sprinters on the team,” Caseres said. “Clearly, she knew herself very well. She became one of the conference’s best freestyle and backstroke swimmers.”
Casares liked Sergi for the relays too, but she had sparse experience in the relays during her time at Solo. College swimming is more of a team sport, where clubs are geared toward individual acceleration. “There was a learning curve,” Casares said. “But she learned very fast.”
Casares recalls Sergi’s first collegiate meet when she dove in too early during a relay, resulting in a disqualification.
“We laugh about that now,” Casares said.
Fast-forward to the NESCAC Championship in February, where Bates’ 200-yard freestyle relay team placed third and earned All-Conference honors by 0.6 seconds. Sergi led off with a 24.31 split, a personal best.
“Elle went from (the disqualification) to dropping 5/10 of a second off the best performance of her career when her team needed her most. That’s something we’ll never forget.”