Albany Times Union - - SPORTS - By Rick Cle­men­son

Alayna Gray of Fonda-john­stown is Times Union’s Ath­lete of Year in girls’ swim­ming.

Alayna Gray, the Times Union Ath­lete of the Year for girls’ swim­ming and div­ing, doesn’t just like aquatic sports, she also skis, runs cross coun­try and track and is a pole vaulter.

The John­stown ju­nior grew up skiing down­hill at nearby Royal Moun­tain, but picked up clas­sic Nordic skiing two years ago and promptly be­came an al­ter­nate for the high school state cham­pi­onships. Gray was on John­stown’s sec­tion-win­ning 3,200 re­lay as a fresh­man and also com­peted in pole vault, but her fa­vorite sport is swim­ming. You can find Gray in a pool or on the way to one pretty much year-round. She’s a grinder.

“I love the feel­ing of suc­cess af­ter a hard work­out,” Gray said.

In the sum­mer, she swims two to three hours in the morn­ing and an­other cou­ple of hours in the af­ter­noon, trav­el­ing an hour from her home in John­stown to prac­tice at Skid­more and Union col­leges.

The hard work has paid off. Gray went un­de­feated in Sec­tion II dual meets and capped her sea­son by win­ning two sec­tional ti­tles (50 and 100 freestyle) and fin­ish­ing sec­ond in the pub­lic school di­vi­sion in both events at the state meet. Her time in the 50 free was 23.58 sec­onds and 51.48 in the 100 free, both per­sonal bests and good enough for All-amer­ica con­sid­er­a­tion. No Fonda-john­stown swim­mer had ever fin­ished top three in two events at the state meet.

“Ev­ery­one in both school dis­tricts and both com­mu­ni­ties are so proud of her,” said coach Ken Hoefs.

In ad­di­tion to her suc­cess at the state cham­pi­onships, Gray counts a team win over Sch­enec­tady among the high­lights of her sea­son. Fonda-john­stown ral­lied to beat the Di­vi­sion I Pa­tri­ots in late Septem­ber. Gray swam the fi­nal leg on the win­ning 400-yard freestyle re­lay that clinched the win, com­ing from 25 yards be­hind to get the win.

Gray has been in the swim pro­gram for three years, but took last year off from var­sity com­pe­ti­tion to fo­cus on club swim­ming. She came back be­cause she missed be­ing on the team.

In­clud­ing her two sec­tional ti­tles, Gray has been part of a lot of vic­to­ries re­cently for Fonda-john­stown. In just two var­sity seasons, she has set school records in the 50, 100 and 500 freestyle and the 100 back­stroke.

She looks for­ward to tak­ing her game to the next level in 2019.

Her mind­set, as it is ev­ery year: “It’s al­ways about im­prov­ing your times,” she said.

Girls’ swim­ming Times Union Ath­lete of the Year Alayna Gray of Fonda-john­stown.

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