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Alex Moderski photo

McFarland's Alex Moderski competes in the 300-yard breaststroke relay during the Middleton Cardinal Relay Invitational at Middleton High School in Middleton, Wis., Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. AMBER ARNOLD, STATE JOURNAL

Considering her state swimming resume, one would think McFarland junior Alex Moderski is on cruise control waiting for the WIAA Division 2 meet Nov. 10 in Madison.

But then, that line of thinking did not take Moderski to the short list of top prep swimmers in the state, and it won’t keep her atop that lofty perch.

With more than two weeks before the state’s best convene at the University of Wisconsin Natatorium, it seems like state is the furthest thing from her mind.

“Right now, it’s probably getting our team toward best times,” she said. “I think it’s more about placing well as for our team as it is for times.”

Moderski and her teammates may have their eyes set on opponents, especially in their spirited Badger South Conference rivalry with Madison Edgewood. But while the team-first Moderski would never say it, more than a few eyes will be focused on what she does the rest of the season.

In two high school seasons, all Moderski has done at state is win the 50 and 100 freestyle events as a freshman, and follow that up with a repeat gold in the 50 and a runner-up finish in the 100 last year.

Moderski crashed the state party in thrilling fashion as a freshman, winning both her events with D2 state-record times of 22.84 seconds in the 50 free and 50.26 seconds in the 100 free. She came up a bit short of those standards as a sophomore, though still defended her title in the 50 at :23.09 and took second in the 100 in :50.58.

This year, Moderski appears poised to lower those D2 standards.

“So far this year, she has the fastest 50 (:23.30) and 100 (:51.88) times for anyone in Division 1 or Division 2, and that’s kind of exciting,” McFarland coach Jessica Garvey said. “She’s been kind of high-profile since her freshman year, breaking the records as a freshman.

“As a sophomore, a lot of people already knew who she was, and the pressure was a lot more than she anticipated. She had a pretty successful sophomore season, but she wasn’t incredibly happy with how the state meet turned out because she didn’t re-get her records.

“As a junior, she’s come in with a lot more experience and had a lot more success, even though the spotlight is on her a lot of the time.”

Considering most swimmers are training to peak with the most important events ahead of them — conference, sectional and state meets — those numbers should start falling for her and her competitors. But according to Garvey, setting the pace early can help mean all the difference when the stakes are highest.

A summer’s worth of training with the McFarland Sharks club team under the direction of Nick Weiss — who stepped aside as the high school coach before this season to lead the club program — helped Moderski improve in the offseason.

“Having a good mindset and getting a really good summer in helped,” Garvey said. “And it helps just taking it meet-by-meet instead of just trying to look at the state meet.”

Moderski grew up swimming in the McFarland club program, and though she entered high school with a big splash, she said the initial success came as a surprise.

“I honestly didn’t know that was possible for me,” she said. “It was super exciting to see those times drop, but I also did it for my team.”

Moderski gave a ton of credit for her successful freshman season to then-senior Sara Hagen, who helped her deal with all the hoopla and pressure that surrounds the state experience.

“She’s one of my best friends, and we worked out together and did the same kinds of sets and intervals,” Moderski said. “She was my training partner and that helped me, because she went through it all before. That really helped me out.”

Now that Moderski is an upperclassman, she is starting to have other swimmers come to her to ask questions and get advice.

“It’s really nice and generous for them to think of me as a role model, so I appreciate that from everyone,” she said.

Moderski will find out soon how much the students have learned from the professor as the climax of the swim season begins to unfold. Following a close-fought dual loss to Badger South rival Edgewood by eight points on Oct. 17, the Spartans return to action on Saturday for the conference meet at Monona Grove.

That’s followed by the sectional meet on Nov. 4 at Stoughton and the state meet on Nov. 10.

They are events that bring out the best crowds, something Garvey thinks will bring out the best in her star pupil.

“If we have some good competition, she gets ready to go,” Garvey said. “That’s why I love having Edgewood on the schedule at the end of the year. Having that environment in a dual meet setting is great.”

“Knowing it’s going to be that way for the rest of the year is great,” Garvey said. “She gets up for that environment. That’s why she’ll do really well at state. People get so loud and excited at the Natatorium, and you don’t get that at every meet.”