BY ANDY ROWER | MIRROR SPORTS — The Generals’ Most Valuable Swimmer throughout her past four years at Anthony Wayne High School, Agnes Bahr recently signed to continue her athletic and academic careers at Cleveland State University.
The daughter of Elaine Bahr and the late Jay Bahr, Agnes began swimming at the Fallen Timbers Family Recreation Club when she was just a young child.
“I took lessons at Fallen Timbers for I don’t know how long, but I was on the swim team starting when I was 6 years old because my older sister (Mary) swam and I had to do everything she did,” Bahr said.
“I fell in love with swimming after my very first meet as a 6-year-old, when I won the 25 backstroke and realized it wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it would be.
“I played other sports as a kid, like soccer and basketball, but swimming allowed me to be competitive as an individual and be on a tem at the same time. I also just love the feel of the water.”
She continued swimming at the Ft. Meigs YMCA for two years, the Greater Toledo Aquatic Club for five years and the Bowling Green Swim Club for four years.
“I didn’t start swimming year-round until I was 9,” Bahr said. “Swimming is an amazing sport because I might be the best of a specific event in a specific area, but somewhere out there, there is always someone who is going to be better and that is really humbling.”
Bahr has been a competitor in individual events at all four district meets and has also competed on relay teams.
Unlike athletes from other OHSAA sports, swimmers can choose no more than two individual events to compete in at the sectional level and also swim in up to two relays.
If they qualify, swimmers then compete in these same two events throughout both districts and the state meet.
There are approximately 400 competitors at sectionals. From there, athletes advance to one of four districts, which house the top 32 from all the sectionals in that district.
The top two swimmers from each district get an automatic bid to state. Sixteen more are added from the remaining fastest district times.
Bahr began her high school career by competing in the 100-meter backstroke and the 200 freestyle events.
As a sophomore, she competed in the 100 butterfly and the 100 breaststroke throughout the season, but approached AW coach Carolyn Strunk-Layne about competing in the 200 individual medley at districts.
“At the end of my freshman year, a few upperclassmen who I really looked up to told me I should try the IM and the more I thought about it the more it made sense because I was good at three of the four strokes, so if I could just get that one stroke – butterfly – down, I could make the IM my event.”
When asked if she initially thought Bahr would be as successful in that event as she became, she said, “No, but at the time, the district was a little weaker in the IM than the 200 free, so it was a good time to try it. She spent the entire season working on getting her butterfly better.
“The Ohio Senior meet between her freshman and sophomore years was the first real indicator that the IM might be a good possibility for her.”
The move paid off, as Bahr placed sixth in the district 200 IM event as a sophomore.
Though Bahr was disqualified in the 100 backstroke at sectionals as a junior, she placed third in the 200 IM, earning a trip to the state meet in Canton, where she placed 22nd.
“To tell the truth, when I first asked my coach to swim the 200 IM, she laughed in my face because I was just so bad at the butterfly, but after much work we got it to a place where I wouldn’t drown when I tried to swim it,” Bahr said. “I had no idea I would some day go to states in the 200 IM.”
After sharing Most Valuable honors at AW with Grace Ellis that season, Bahr came back this past winter to earn runner-up honors in the district 200 IM event and placed sixth in the 100 back.
Another trip to Canton followed, and Bahr finished 16th in the preliminaries and 13th in the finals.
“She is dedicated to continuing to be a better athlete and she upped her level of commitment this year by adding morning workouts to her practice schedule,” Strunk-Layne said.
Bahr credited her yearly improvements to her coaches and that hard work.
“Carolyn Strunk-Layne and Gary Layne have been coaches for all of my high school years and I couldn’t ask for a greater pair of coaches,” she said. “When I was a freshman, there were seven girls on the team and no boys.
“My sophomore year, we added a few girls as well as the first boy we had in a while. My junior year, we kept growing with about 18 swimmers altogether and finally, my senior year, we had a grand total of 23 swimmers. That included one of the largest boys swim teams AW has seen.
“We practice six days a week – two hours in the water and 30 minutes of weight lifting, abs and running. During Christmas break our practices are 3.5 hours long. I don’t have easy days. Every practice I give 100-percent effort. It also helps that I have goals in mind, so during a painful practice I remember I’m moving toward something.”
Bahr finished her high school career as Anthony Wayne’s school record holder in the 100 back and 200 IM. She also joined forces with Cait Grubbs, Lily Hunter and Sam Sucheck for the Generals’ medley relay record.
“I think it’s amazing that I have school records,” Bahr said. “Not for having the records necessarily, but to bring swimming up to date at Anthony Wayne. It has been a while since the records have been touched. I love bringing attention to a high school sport that usually doesn’t get a lot of attention.”
Bahr has participated in USA Swimming since she was 10. She has been to the Speedo sectional meets and most recently the TYR Pro Series in Indianapolis, where she shared the pool with several Olympians.
“My dad was the one who wanted to get me into USA Swimming when I was little,” Bahr said. “Ever since then, I’ve loved the high levels of competition and personal improvement. To compete in the TYR Pro Series meets, one has to have a specific time in an event and at states this past year I made the 200 IM cut time.
“Being there at that meet was amazing. I actually swam with Olympians like Matt Grevers, Katie Ledecky and Nathan Adrian. It was also really memorable because I dropped time at the meet, which is something I wasn’t expecting to do.”
When it came time to start looking at colleges, Bahr knew she wanted to continue her swimming career at the Division I level.
She ultimately visited New York’s Marist College and Indiana’s Ball State University, as well as the Vikings.
On her way home from Cleveland, Cleveland State coach Paul Graham called Bahr to offer her a scholarship.
“I chose CSU because of the immediate connection I had with the team, as well as the atmosphere of the whole school,” Bahr said. “CSU is such an active place. Nothing is ever still.”
Bahr, who also participated in AW’s celebrated marching band all four years of high school, graduated from Anthony Wayne with a 4.0 GPA. She credited her mother and father for making her into the person she is today.
Strunk-Layne said Bahr had an energetic personality, a great work ethic and strong leadership and was always willing to try a new strategy or change her stroke.
“We’ve spent her high school years emphasizing a balance between school, band and swimming, the importance of competing outside of the high school season and swimming different events from high school,” she said.
Bahr leaves for CSU on August 24 and will major in journalism and promotional communications with an emphasis in graphic arts.
“She showed that reaching goals is possible with hard work and commitment,” Strunk-Layne said. “I think her senior year was a good indicator of what she can do. She’s a strong swimmer who still has a lot of potential in more events than what CSU has recruited her for and I’m looking forward to seeing what she does.”