FREMONT – Less than two years ago, MaKennah Fitzgerald was on the verge of quitting swimming.
In December of her sophomore year, Fitzgerald spent more than a month battling illness, including a weeklong stay in the hospital. She went back and forth with herself, one minute deciding she was finishing swimming, the next determined to return to the pool.
Then Fitzgerald’s friend Meghan Moses convinced her that her future in swimming was too bright to give up on.
“She was like, ‘You can’t quit. I know there is something coming, you can’t,’” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald made good on Moses’ prediction. Later that season she qualified for a second time to the state swim meet, and she did so for a third-straight year last year as a junior.
Monday, as her senior season is just getting underway, Fitzgerald secured her swimming future for another four years as she signed her National Letter of Intent and committed to continue her career at Division I Cleveland State University.
“It’s nerve-wracking because now there is four more years of expectations and trying to get better,” Fitzgerald said. “But I’m just so excited because I love swim and I can’t imagine not being able to do it for another four more years.”
In all, Fitzgerald has qualified for the OHSAA state swim meet in eight different events, including individual qualifications in the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke. She also holds the Ross pool and program records as part of the 200 medley relay, along with Olivia DeRodes, Alexis Prenzlin and AnneMarie Moses.
Fitzgerald is also fifth in her class and carries a 3.9 GPA and is a member of National Honor Society.
Her abilities in the pool and the classroom made her a prized recruit for Cleveland State, said Ross swim coach Phil Moran.
“Being a college athlete you have to maintain you grades. One of the reasons they wanted her was because she’s so smart because that is one less thing a college coach has to worry about. They know if their kid’s got good grades, they don’t have to worry about it.”
“She doesn’t have good grades. She has superb grades,” interjected Fitzgerald’s Spanish teacher, Linda Schalk, a teacher of over 30 years. “She is probably the best, most diligent, most determined student I’ve ever had. If she swims half as good as she does academically in school, and I know she does, when she sets her mind to something, she does it.”
“She’s a pitbull,” Moran added.
Fitzgerald said she expects to be competing as a freshman at Cleveland State in both backstroke and freestyle events, though colleges also compete in the backstroke at 200, not just 100.
“It is intimidating but I feel I’m better at distance events than the sprint events,” she said. “I’m excited.”