MILTON, Ga. — To witness Cambridge swimmers Abby Grottle and Sophie Brison compete is to view two of the top high school swimmers in the state and to see the past and future of the Bears’ swim program.
Grottle, a senior, has led the Bears’ rise the last four years from a fledgling program to the top in the state. And that is where the program could stay with freshman Brison leading a promising future for the Bears.
The pair combined for four individual state championships and two team titles leading the Bears to the Class 6A girls overall championship at the GHSA state meet Feb. 13-15. Grottle bested the field in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle, while Brison stood atop the podium in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard backstroke. The two also teamed with Jayla Brown and Claire Kerber to take the state championship in the 200- and 400-yard medley relay events.
Both championship swimmers said they feed off one another.
In addition to their age difference, Cambridge swim head coach Lauren Hall said the pair have far different personalities behind the block. Hall said Grottle is more laser-focused on the task at hand, while Brison is loose and lighthearted.
“I think it’s a great dynamic because she is there getting me excited, and I’m also going, ‘Okay Sophie, we can be serious, too,’” Grottle laughed.
“I benefit off her a lot, and I think she benefits off me, because I get her excited and ready to swim because that’s more my personality,” Brison said.
The swimmers’ stroke specialties also differ, with Brison excelling in the backstroke, and more recently in the individual medley. Grottle sets All-American times in the freestyle. Both athletes began their swim careers far outside Georgia’s borders.
Brison began swimming when her family live in France, and she continued her time in the pool while living in South Carolina. Grottle began swimming at 5-years old in Ohio, and she said three years later she made a commitment to the sport. Both have been racking up accolades since, with Grottle paving the way for Cambridge’s rise to prominence over the past four seasons.
“It’s been unreal,” Grottle said. “I remember being a freshman, and we had some good upperclassmen, but the team hadn’t reached the amount of success we have now. I think a lot of it has to do with those who supported me along the way, but also the underclassmen who now come in with a great spirit, ready to compete, unphased and always training hard to pursue a state championship.”
Brison, among those underclassmen coming into the program ready to compete for state titles, did not understate the importance Grottle has had on the Bears’ program.
“She has left a huge impact,” Brison said. “She would always talk about when she was a freshman, the school was so new and the team wasn’t as strong. And since it has just been growing and building, and the girls are just so close together and we love each other. I love Abby Grottle, I felt like she’s an older sister.”
Grottle is also appreciative of Brison and her other teammates for the impact on her high school career.
“True leadership does not lie in one person, but all throughout the team,” Grottle said. “I couldn’t have done it without them. When you look at the [Cambridge] record board, yes, my name is on there, but there are so many other kids, my teammates, who are also on there and who have supported me along the way. I could not have done it without them.”
With a strong legacy left behind, Grottle will join the University of Pittsburgh program next year. The senior said the university has a fantastic swim program with a team atmosphere, and she is looking forward to receiving an academic degree from the school.
Brison is among a bevy of talent returning for the Bears. Sophomore Claire Kerber, who placed fourth in the 100-yard butterfly at the state meet, and junior Jayla Brown, fifth in the 100 free at the state meet, will also return. Other notable team members include Emma Guy and Eva Medici who placed seventh at the state meet on the Bears’ 200-yard freestyle relay team.
“I’m really excited to see where our girls can go next year, and I think we are ready to take on the challenge,” Brison said.