Skip to content

Hartland’s Cory Nelligan is Boys Swimmer of the Year

142 Reads

0 Comments

Eagles Swimming Logo

HARTLAND — Hartland’s Cory Nelligan had one goal in mind entering the Division 1 state meet.

“He just said, ‘I’m not here for two races. I’m here for four,’” Hartland coach Trey Conner said.

As it turns out, Nelligan was there for five.

The Hartland senior tied for eighth place with Holland West Ottawa’s Sam Smith in the 50 freestyle preliminaries, both recording times of 21.36. That meant Nelligan and Smith would enter the pool and go head-to-head, engaging in an epic swim-off for a coveted all-state spot.

To those in the stands at Oakland University Aquatic Center, it was about as interesting as it gets, seeing two top swimmers enter the pool for a 50-yard sprint to achieve a distinction they have worked their entire lives for. That was evident by the fact it was still a packed house.

 

To Conner, who saw Nelligan just barely miss the top-eight cut in the 100 free a few races earlier, and who knows firsthand how hard his senior has worked all year long for a spot amongst the state’s very best, it was brutal seeing his dream come down to this one race.

“Oh my gosh, no. It was not interesting,” Conner said with a laugh. “It was awful.”

The Hartland coach described his heart as just about beating out of his chest as Nelligan and Smith took their respective spots. Nelligan, however, described himself as focused, thinking back on the countless hours he dedicated to improving his times after a disappointing 2015 state meet where he failed to make it to day two.

“I wanted it,” Nelligan said. “I had to wait the entire meet, but I tried to stay calm through the whole thing. … I got up there, and it was finally time to go. Every single person stayed in that arena. All of my family was up there cheering me on. I was pumped up like I had never been before.

“I said to myself, ‘This is my race. I want all-state in this.’ Then I beat him off the block.”

“Cory beat him off the block, and as soon as that happened it was a done deal,” Conner said.

Nelligan posted his fastest time with a 21.22, a new school record.

Most importantly, he solidified his first-ever all-state spot. One year after taking 33rd in the 50 free, he wound end up in sixth (21.36).

Nelligan narrowly missed out on the top eight in the 100 free, in which he took ninth. However, his B final time of 46.81 was Livingston County’s fastest in 2017 and would have been sixth in the A final.

For his phenomenal final two days, Nelligan is Livingston Daily’s Boys Swimmer of the Year.

Pinckney’s David Turner, Brighton’s Drew Panzl and Howell’s Caleb Balgaard were also considered.

“I’ve never really had a swim-off in all my years of swimming,” said Nelligan, who kept going back to that moment. “I’ve never had anything like that kind of experience. After (the first race), I was like, ‘That stinks. I have to do a swim-off.’ But I realized it was pretty cool.”

Especially after winning it.

“It was absolutely unreal,” he said. “I definitely teared up a little bit.”

It was the opposite feeling from the year prior when Nellilgan left day one of the state meet “crushed” because he wouldn’t be back for either the A or B finals in any event. That had affected him so much he often did two-a-day practices at the pool with Club Wolverine during the summer in an effort to make all-state a reality.

“When I got my state cut but didn’t place, it was one of those things where I was like, ‘OK, now I got my feet wet and I’m going to go out and train super hard,’” Nelligan said. “I took no breaks. Every time it hurt at practice, I was just thinking about the pain of not making it back to day two.

“I said, ‘This year is going to be my season.’”

Nelligan never lost a 50 free race in a dual meet. The Hartland senior placed second in the 50 at the Lakes Conference meet with a 21.76, and third in the 100 free with a 48.15. Very solid times, but he knew he needed more at states.

He can’t quite explain how he got it, but he did, clocking, by far, his fastest times in those two individual events. He credited the high-pressure environment, all of the preparation and talks from his coach, the taper plan that preceded the meet, and his offseason regimen.

“He killed it,” Conner said. “He swam perfectly. And it meant the world to him.”

It still came down to a do-or-die race on the high school sport’s grandest stage.

But, at least after how it played out, Nelligan wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“I don’t think there was a more perfect way,” he said. “That was my ideal version of going out.”

  • Latest Photo Galleries

    View More Galleries

  • SUPPORT OUR SPONSORS

  • Athletics Calendar

  • FOLLOW US ON TWITTER

  • LIKE US ON FACEBOOK

  • SUPPORT OUR SPONSORS