High School Sports

The 4,000-calorie diet that helped South Meck swimmer become No. 1 in the nation

Riding with recruits: Ellie Marquardt

South Mecklenburg swimmer Ellie Marquardt, an all-conference swim star is unbeaten in dual meets in her four-year high school career. Marquardt has committed to Princeton. Recorded on Tuesday, January 8, 2019.
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South Mecklenburg swimmer Ellie Marquardt, an all-conference swim star is unbeaten in dual meets in her four-year high school career. Marquardt has committed to Princeton. Recorded on Tuesday, January 8, 2019.

South Mecklenburg High swimmer Ellie Marquardt has a problem many of us would love to share: She can eat all she wants and not get fat.

“I try to eat at least 4,000 calories per day,” Marquardt said, “and most days I hope I can get past that.”

After breakfast at home, Marquardt brings two lunches to school. She goes home before practice and eats again. Then, after practice, she eats another meal at home.

Such is life when you’re committed to swim Division I in college at Princeton and you have the No. 1 time nationally among 17-year-olds in the 500-freestyle, according to USA Swimming. All that practice burns through a lot of turkey sandwiches. And all that practice has made the lanky 5-foot-10 teenager a dominant swimmer.

Her recruiting took a big jump when she dropped her previous best time by 10 seconds to finish second at the Speedo Junior Nationals late last year.

Some major Division I programs began offering to help with her daily calorie intake, but Marquardt liked Princeton and decided to remain a Tiger.

Marquardt will swim for South Meck in the SoMeck conference meet Friday at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center in uptown Charlotte. A senior, she’s already finished a portion of her career with a rare distinction: She never lost a regular-season race.

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South Mecklenburg swim coach Leslie Berens. Photographed on Tuesday, January 8, 2019. David T. Foster III dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

“Ellie is a beast in the pool,” South Meck coach Leslie Berens said. “And she cares about her teammates. She’s such a leader. She motivates them to do their best. I remember her first race, freshman year, she dove into the pool and she was lightning on top of the water. We couldn’t believe how fast she was going.”

Marquardt was 7 when she got into competitive swimming but wasn’t a lightning bolt yet.

“I wasn’t good until I was 14,” she said. “After I turned 15, I started thinking, ‘Maybe I’ll be good enough to swim in college.”

Now, she’s setting her sights on the U.S. Olympic Trials, which will be held June 21-28, 2020 in Omaha, Neb. But before that, her biggest goal is to finish the season strong.

Last year, she helped South Meck finish third in the state. This year, she wants to win a medal.

“It’s my senior year and I’d like to win an event,” she said. “My best finish was third in the 500 my sophomore year, so this is it. I’m going to give it my all.”

Key Swimming Dates

I-MECK conference: Friday at Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatic Center, 5 p.m.

Southwestern 4A: held Jan. 11 (story here)

SoMeck conference meet: Friday at uptown Mecklenburg Aquatic Center, 7:20 p.m. (diving is Saturday)

Regional meets: 3A West (diving Feb., 1 at Huntersville; swimming Feb. 2, at Mecklenburg Aquatic Center uptown); 4A West swmming at Mecklenburg Aquatic Center, uptown, Feb. 2; 4A West diving Feb. 2 at Huntersville

State Championships: Feb. 7 (4A), Feb. 8 (3A), Feb. 9 (1A/2A) at Triangle Aquatic Center, Cary; diving Feb. 6 (4A), 7 (3A), 8 (1A/2A) at Greensboro Aquatic Center)

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