Behm swims her way to the Olympic Trials


Andrew Maier ('20)

Annie Behm (‘21) swims her way to victory at a meet for East in the backstroke.

Cherry Hill East’s Annie Behm (‘21) is making history one stroke at a time. Behm reached a monumental milestone at the NJ BAC Winter Invitational in January by beating the 2020 Olympic trials qualification time in both the 100m and 200m backstrokes. About 1,300 swimmers will be invited to the event that will take place in Omaha, Nebraska.

“I put lots of pressure on myself, so I am happy to see the hard work [has been] paying off,” Behm said.

Behm is the fourth-ranked swimmer in New Jersey for the class of 2021, but she doesn’t pay any mind to individual accolades, focusing on the team aspect more. Between both teams, East has 26 state swimming championships, after both teams won their championships this year.

“A state championship was the goal,” said the Girls’ Swimming head coach, Anita Bowser. “Behm is one of many dedicated swimmers we have that helped us get there.”

Behm attended the Junior Nationals last year, but the Olympic trials require a different class of talent. Behm is the first female swimmer ever from Cherry Hill East to qualify, and first overall swimmer since East legend, Sean Killion (‘86).

“I honestly just want to have fun and do as well as I possibly can,” she said.
Late last year, Behm lost one of her favorite coaches at her club team, Jersey Wahoos. George Breen was a role model for Behm throughout the backend of her swimming career, and taught her many lessons she reflects on today.

“George made me start swimming backstroke at the age of 12,” she said. “It was emotional losing him, but I know if he were here today, he would want me to stay focused.”

Behm is dedicating this season to him for all he has taught her. She has taken her talents to the next level this year, winning many races and helping the East girls team win the New Jersey Group A championship. She even won the final race that gave them a narrow victory.

It is just surreal [that] I am even in this position,

— Annie Mehm ('21)

Yet, with the spotlight on her upcoming trials and her team’s state championship run, she likes to take a reserved approach to the entire process. Colleges reach out to her weekly, but she does not swim for the pride or glory, but for her love of the sport. She committed to the University of Notre Dame and will be a member of their class of 2025.

“It is just surreal [that] I am even in this position,” Behm says with a laugh. She goes on to say, “Swimming is a sport focused on the nitty-gritty aspects, but I love the grind and competing with my teammates.”

One of Behm’s teammates and lifelong friends, Grace Yoon (‘20), is not only another key swimmer for East, but she also swims for the Jersey Wahoos with Behm. Yoon is amazed by all Behm has accomplished and cannot wait to see what more she will achieve.

“It was really cool to watch [Behm] qualify in two events,” Yoon said. “We share common goals and are always there to support each other.”
The duo grew up together, having even been swimming together since they were kids.

Yoon also touched on the positive outlook Behm has in all facets of her life. This optimism is part of what drives Behm every day and allows her to overcome obstacles in the pool.

Fellow teammate, Annie Dollarton (‘21), said, “[Behm] always has a constant drive to do better.”

A daunting obstacle for Behm will be the “long course” pool at the Olympic trials’ length. This pool is 25 meters longer than the standard recreational pool that high school swimmers are used to.

“I am of course used to the ‘short course’ pools, but I feel like less turns will help me,” Behm said.

Behm continues to swim for several hours every week even after the season has ended, a testament to her will to succeed.

Behm’s hard work, dedication, and optimism have helped her achieve her lifelong dream, but for this swimmer, it is only the beginning.