Top Girls Athlete: Chelsea Chenault

Chelsea Chenault already has competed in Russia this summer and is currently in Barcelona training for upcoming world championships. Photo: Jonathan Hawthorne (SportStars Magazine).

Cal-Hi Sports Girls Athlete of the Year Chelsea Chenault already has competed in Russia this summer and is currently in Barcelona training for upcoming world championships. Photo: Jonathan Hawthorne (SportStars Magazine).

Carondelet of Concord swimmer is the 2012-13 Cal-Hi Sports Girls Athlete of the Year. She is headed to the world championships to participate alongside Olympic heroes from last summer and just completed record-breaking senior season. She’s also the second State Athlete of the Year from Carondelet in eight years.

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Chace Bryson is the editor of SportStars Magazine, which recently ranked Chenault No. 3 in its list of the Top 75 Bay Area Athletes of 2012-13. She was the highest-ranked female. To see the full list of the Bay Area 75, CLICK HERE.

Chelsea Chenault had run all the calculations.

She was convinced she and her Concord Carondelet teammates could set a national independent (private schools) record in the 400 freestyle relay at the North Coast Section Swimming Championships on May 18. The record for the 400-yard relay had been set earlier in the year by Germantown Academy (Germantown, Pa.).

“I looked up (Germantown’s) splits and knew we had a shot,” Chenault said. “I’m kind of like a swimming nerd when it comes to all that.”

A very competitive one.

Not only was Chenault steadfast about the relay team’s chances of setting the national record, she was also adamant about leading off.

Why? To take aim at another record, of course. The lead leg of any relay can stand as a separate mark. In this case, Chenault had her eye on the NCS record in the 100 freestyle.

“I led off last year and missed the NCS record by a tenth of a second,” she said. “I was that close. I told (Carondelet coach Jasmine Millan) ‘I have to do it again, I have to try and get back at that record.’ It was haunting me.”

And so it was fitting, that in the final swim of her decorated high school career, Chenault put her name on a fifth NCS record and set the pace for Carondelet to set the national mark she knew was possible. Chenault’s record lead-off time was 49.27 seconds and then she stood on the deck and watched as teammates Natalie Amberg, Madelyn Murphy and Madison White each did their part.

The Cougars finished in 3 minutes and 20.42 seconds, more than a second faster than Germantown’s record mark of 3:21.63. It was the second national independent record that Chenault has helped set at Carondelet, the first coming in the 200 medley relay in 2011 — a mark that still stands.

Chenault’s total haul at the 2013 NCS Swimming Championships included three golds (also winning the 200 and 500 freestyle), three NCS records and one national record. It was an effort that cemented her status as one of the Northern California’s best swimmers of all time.

Chelsea Chenault churns through the water at CIF North Coast Section championships. Photo: Jonathan Hawthorne (SportStars Magazine).

Chelsea Chenault churns through the water at CIF North Coast Section championships. Photo: Jonathan Hawthorne (SportStars Magazine).


A few weeks later, Chenault qualified for the FINA World Championships as a member of the U.S. team alongside 2012 U.S. Olympic stars such as Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte. All that was certainly enough to make her this year’s choice as the 2012-13 Cal-Hi Sports State Girls Athlete of the Year.

She becomes the first swimmer to win the award since Jessica Hardy (Long Beach Wilson) was named for the 2004-05 school year. She’s also the second from Carondelet in eight years, with Jayne Appel (basketball, water polo) getting the nod previously in 2005-06.

“It’s an honor,” Chenault texted from Barcelona, Spain, where she was training for the World Championships with her U.S. teammates, including Hardy. “There are so many more amazing athletes out there, so even being considered is incredible.”

Chenault, who will attend USC in the fall, boasts a final list of high school accomplishments that includes 12 NCS golds, five NCS records, and two national records over four years. It’s an extremely impressive resume considering that in both her junior and senior years, the NCS Championships were not her primary focus.

“The last two years she’s had something big coming up right after NCS,” said Paul Stafford, Chenault’s club coach with the Concord Terrapins for the past seven years. “Last year, she was focused on the Olympic Trials, and this year it was the World qualifiers. It as always difficult for her to put 100 percent of her focus into the (NCS meet), so to do what she did was even more incredible.”

In the summer of 2012, she had her Olympic bubble burst after coming up two-tenths of a second short in the 200-meter freestyle. It was a devastating setback, but only fueled her for the success of her senior season.

“Outside of the physical tools, of which she has many, she’s just a fierce fierce competitor,” Stafford said. “To come back and have the year she did, and then essentially qualify for the team that she didn’t make the summer before, is a testament to her resilience and work-ethic. … Her best swimming is still ahead of her.”

Chances are we’ll have the chance to watch it on our televisions.

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Note: Last year’s State Athlete of the Year, gymnast Kyla Ross, who went on to help the U.S. women’s team win a gold medal at the London Olympics, is still attending Aliso Niguel High School in Aliso Viejo, according to her website. She has had a quiet season so far due to a heel injury, but may be strong in international competitions for the U.S. later this summer. As long as she is still listed as attending a California high school, she would be eligible to be our State Athlete of the Year. Like many athletes in gymnastics, golf, tennis and other sports, Ross could go the route of taking on-line courses or going to a charter school with no athletics. Those decisions do make sense for those athletes, but our State Athlete of the Year honors can only go to those who are students at California high schools and who compete in recognized CIF sports.

ALL-TIME CAL-HI SPORTS
GIRLS STATE ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
(Selected by Cal-Hi Sports)

2012-13 – Chelsea Chenault, Concord Carondelet (swimming)
2011-12 – Kyla Ross, Aliso Viejo Aliso Niguel (gymnastics)
2010-11 – Maggie Steffens, Danville Monte Vista (water polo)
2009-10 – Ashton Purvis, Oakland St. Elizabeth (track)
2008-09 – Jordan Hasay, San Luis Obispo Mission Prep (track)
2007-08 – Jordan Hasay, San Luis Obispo Mission Prep (track) Jr.
2006-07 – Alix Klineman, Manhattan Beach Mira Costa (volleyball)
2005-06 – Jayne Appel, Concord Carondelet (water polo, basketball)
2004-05 – Jessica Hardy, Long Beach Wilson (swimming)
2003-04 – Candice Wiggins, La Jolla Country Day (volleyball, basketball)
2002-03 – Alyson Felix, North Hills L.A. Baptist (track)
2001-02 – Julia Pitts, Torrance North (volleyball, basketball, track)
2000-01 – Lashinda Demus, Long Beach Wilson (track)
1999-00 – Monique Henderson, San Diego Morse (track) Jr.
1998-99 – Rometra Craig, San Jose Mitty (basketball, tae kwon do, track) Jr.
1997-98 – Amanda Freed, Garden Grove Pacifica (volleyball, soccer, baseball)
1996-97 – Tayyiba Haneef, Laguna Hills (volleyball, basketball, track)
1995-96 – Kerri Walsh, San Jose Mitty (volleyball, basketball)
1994-95 – Marcy Crouch, Huntington Beach Marina (soccer, softball)
1993-94 – Suzy Powell, Modesto Downey (basketball, track)
1992-93 – Marion Jones, Thousand Oaks (basketball, track)
1991-92 – Marion Jones, Thousand Oaks (basketball, track) Jr.
1990-91 – Marion Jones, Oxnard Rio Mesa (basketball, track) Soph.
1989-90 – Lisa Leslie, Inglewood Morningside (basketball, track)
1988-89 – Janet Evans, Placentia El Dorado (swimming)
1987-88 – Janet Evans, Placentia El Dorado (swimming) Jr.
1986-87 – Michele Granger, Placentia Valencia (softball)
1985-86 – Terri Mann, San Diego Point Loma (basketball, track)
1984-85 – Elaina Oden, Irvine (volleyball, track)
1983-84 – Wendy Brown, Woodside (basketball, track)
1982-83 – Wendy Wyland, Mission Viejo (diving)
1981-82 – Denean Howard, Granada Hills Kennedy (track)
1980-81 – Cheryl Miller, Riverside Polytechnic (basketball)
1979-80 – Sherri Howard, Granada Hills Kennedy (track)
1978-79 – Cynthia Woodhead, Riverside Polytechnic (swimming)
1977-78 – Tracy Austin, Rolling Hills (tennis)
1976-77 – Linda Fratianne, Van Nuys Valley Professional (figure skating)
1975-76 – Jill Sterkel, Hacienda Heights Wilson (swimming)
1974-75 – Barbara Reinalda, Cerritos Valley Christian (basketball, softball)
1973-74 – Mary Decker, Orange (track)
1972-73 – Keena Rothhammer, Santa Clara (swimming)
1971-72 – Mable Fergerson, Pomona Ganesha (track)
1970-71 – Laura Baugh, Long Beach Wilson (golf)
1969-70 – Cathy Rigby, Los Alamitos (gymnastics)
1968-69 – Debbie Meyer, Sacramento Rio Americano (swimming)
1967-68 – Debbie Meyer, Sacramento Rio Americano (swimming)
1966-67 – Debbie Meyer, Sacramento Rio Americano (swimming)
1965-66 – Charlotte Cooke, Compton (track)
1964-65 – Peggy Fleming, Pasadena (figure skating)
1963-64 – Sharon Stouder, Glendora (swimming)
1962-63 – Donna de Varona, Santa Clara (swimming)
1961-62 – Carolyn House, Los Angeles Marshall (swimming)
1960-61 – Billie Jean Moffitt, Long Beach Poly (tennis)
1959-60 – Chris von Saltza, Los Gatos (swimming)
1958-59 – Karen Hantze, San Diego Mission Bay (tennis)
1957-58 – Sylvia Ruuska, Berkeley (swimming)
1956-57 – Barbara Ann Roles, Arcadia (figure skating)
1955-56 – Mimi Arnold, Redwood City Sequoia (tennis)
1954-55 – Mimi Arnold, Redwood City Sequoia (tennis)
1953-54 – Carol Tait, Atherton Menlo-Atherton (swimming)
1952-53 – Barbara Stark, Lafayette Acalanes (swimming)
1951-52 – Paula Jean Myers, Covina (diving)
1950-51 – Maureen Connolly, San Diego Cathedral (tennis)
1949-50 – Maureen Connolly, San Diego Cathedral (tennis)
1948-49 – Marlene Bauer, L.A. unknown (golf)
1947-48 – Zoe Ann Olsen, Oakland (diving)
1946-47 – Zoe Ann Olsen, Oakland (diving)
1945-46 – Zoe Ann Olsen, Oakland (diving)
1944-45 – Nancy Chaffee, Ventura (tennis)
1943-44 – Jean Doyle, San Diego Point Loma (tennis)
1942-43 – Ann Curtis, S.F. Washington (swimming)
1941-42 – Ann Curtis, S.F. Washington (swimming)
1940-41 – Ann Curtis, S.F. Washington (swimming)
1939-40 – Margorie Gestring, Los Angeles (diving)
1938-39 – Esther Williams, L.A. Washington (swimming)
1937-38 – Margorie Gestring, Los Angeles (diving)
1936-37 – Margorie Gestring, Los Angeles (diving)
1935-36 – Peggy Graham, Beverly Hills (golf)
1934-35 – Margaret Osborne, S.F. Commerce (tennis)
1933-34 – Florence Chadwick, San Diego Hoover (rough water swimming)
1932-33 – Dorothy Poynton, L.A. Fairfax (diving)
1931-32 – Evelyn Furtsch, Tustin (track)
1930-31 – Alice Marble, S.F. Polytechnic (tennis)
1929-30 – Georgia Coleman, L.A. Polytechnic (diving)
1928-29 – Gloria Russell, Berkeley (track)
1927-28 – Georgia Coleman, L.A. Polytechnic (diving)
1926-27 – Georgia Coleman, L.A. Polytechnic (diving)
1925-26 – Helen Jacobs, Berkeley Miss Anna Head’s School (tennis)
1924-25 – Eleanor Garatti, San Rafael (swimming)
1923-24 – Helen Jacobs, Berkeley (tennis)
1922-23 – Helen Wills, Berkeley Miss Anna Head’s School (tennis)
1921-22 – Helen Wills, Berkeley unknown (tennis)
1920-21 – Helen Wills, Berkeley unknown (tennis)
1919-20 – Helen Wills, Berkeley unknown (tennis)

Note: All selections prior to 1978-79 done retroactively through research by our founder, the late Nelson Tennis.


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  1. […] Carondelet’s Chelsea Chenault (‘13), a USC commit, was named the Cal-Hi Sports Girls Athlete of the Year after taking aim at several swimming records, as Chace Bryson writes. […]

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