How an Oregon freshman set five program records and has rejuvenated the girls swimming team

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Stoughton senior receiver and defensive back Mason Marggi discusses the Vikings’ season to date and his contributions on Sept. 14 at a Stoughton High School practice field. 

Jon Masson | Wisconsin State Journal

OREGON — Even before Oregon freshman swimmer Alyse Block had started her first day of high school classes she had already established four school records in the pool during meets in August.

Her credentials — and previous best times — entering high school gave indications that the Oregon’s girls swimming record book would need serious revisions in the future.

“I just wasn’t expecting to get them in my very first meets,” the 5-foot-10 Block said. “My best times were faster than a few of the records, but they were my best times I’d ever done. So, it was surprising I’d get them right away.”

The record progression continued when she set a new standard in the 50-yard freestyle earlier this month — making Block the owner of five school records prior to a Sept. 20 home-opening meet against WIAA Division 2 powerhouse Madison Edgewood at the Oregon Community Pool.

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“She knew coming in that some of her lifetime best times were below those records,” Oregon coach Justin Sawran said. “It was a matter of time when she would let those go. But I don’t think she was expecting it so soon.”

Senior Izzy Block, who has returned to the team after a two-year absence so the sisters could swim together, had confidence her sister would become a record setter for the Panthers.

Block sisters

Members of the Oregon High School swim team, including Alyse Block, left, and her sister, Izzy, thank family members for parent appreciation night on Sept. 20. Alyse, a freshman, has five program records and is swimming with her sister on the same team for the first time. Izzy returned after two years away and together they lead a revamped Panthers team.

“I was a little shocked,” Izzy Block said. “I knew she could do it. I had no doubt she could do it. It was kind of crazy that in the first meet she already got two records.”

Sawran, who likes to put his swimmers in different events, said Alyse Block’s record breakdown was as follows: 200 freestyle, 1 minute, 56.28 seconds (school record previously held by Maddie Schwartz since 2010); 100 butterfly, 58.28 seconds (Claudia Schwartz in 2021); 100 freestyle, 53.41 seconds (Natalie Shirk since 2012); 100 backstroke, 59.09 seconds (Claudia Schwartz in 2021); and 50 freestyle, 24.20 seconds (Rachel Walsh since 2009).

School records aren’t broken at Oregon’s home pool because it is 25 meters rather than yards and converted times aren’t treated as an official record, Sawran said.

As of Friday, her 50 freestyle time ranked second in the state this season and her 100 freestyle time was fourth, according to the Wisconsin Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association.

Izzy Block, 17, began swimming when she was 8 years old after receiving encouragement to try it from her friend Jane Ciambrone, also an Oregon senior and current teammate. That meant Alyse, then 5 years old, also was at the pool.

Alyse tried it for a while but wasn’t enamored with the whole swimming experience.

Alyse Block

Oregon’s Alyse Block competes in the 100-meter freestyle during a Sept. 20 meet against Madison Edgewood at the Oregon Pool. Block, 14, set four of her five program records before she started her first day of high school.

“It was just too hard for me, I think,” said Alyse Block, who’s 14 now. “I didn’t like being at the pool right away after school and not getting home until like 6 at night, it didn’t feel right to me as a kindergartner or first grader. I just didn’t like being away from home all day. I think I quit for a year, then joined up again.”

She returned because she grew tired of working on her coloring books during meets.

“(Izzy) always was really good,” Alyse Block said. “I wanted to be like that. I was sick of sitting in the stands watching her swim. I just wanted to be out there swimming.”

It also demonstrated the competitive fire the sisters shared.

“It is fun to have them on the team,” Sawran said. “They are both competitive by nature. Whatever event I put them in, they are going to go for it.”

Izzy was on the Division 1 state-qualifying 200 freestyle relay for Oregon as a freshman, but decided not to swim the next two years, explaining that she felt drained from years of swimming.

The arrival of her sister on the team led to Izzy’s return.

“It’s been really exciting,” Alyse Block said. “We’ve always wanted to swim together.”

Alyse Block, Oregon

Oregon’s Alyse Block cheers on her sister, Izzy, as she competes during a Sept. 20 meet against Madison Edgewood. Alyse, a freshman, has set five pool records and is swimming with her sister, a senior, on the same team for the first time.

Their age difference had meant they didn’t swim together on club teams.

“It’s kind of crazy because I quit swimming for two years so I didn’t know if I’d have the opportunity to swim with her or not,” Izzy Block said. “But it’s really cool to swim with my sister because it’s the first time for us to swim on the same relay or on the same team. It was always something we looked forward to. I thought it would be a nice opportunity for my mom (Shelley) to see us swimming together.”

Aided by the Block sisters, who also play softball, and freshmen Kennedy Faris and Olivia Sina, the Panthers are improved and off to a good start, which included early season invitational and dual victories.

They hope to put together at least two relay teams that can qualify for state, while Alyse Block figures to bid for state in individual and relay events.

“It’s nice for the community to see,” Izzy Block said. “We are doing really well this season. Our freshmen are insane. They can keep up with anybody at this point.”

The Panthers were buoyed by their performance against Edgewood, top-ranked in Division 2 and winner of seven consecutive state titles. Alyse Block won the 100-meter freestyle and the 200-meter individual medley in the Badger West Conference dual meet, which Edgewood won 100-70.

“It’s definitely impressive,” Sawran said about the start of Alyse Block’s high school career. “It’s fun for the rest of the team to watch, too. Going against a team with (NCAA) D-I swimmers (as verbal commits), she was excited to have that kind of competition. It gives her more of an indication of the competition and where she is aspiring to be.”

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