While her first name sets her apart, Rebel Todhunter’s last name puts her in an exclusive club in the Ithaca swim community.
Todhunter, a state meet-bound sophomore from coach Roy Staley’s Ithaca High swim team, has been swimming for about 10 years, drawn to the sport by her older sister. The oldest of her three siblings, 22-year-old Logan Todhunter, is with whom Rebel is associated.
“I get compared to her a lot,” Rebel said before practice on Tuesday. “But she’s the reason I started swimming, so I have to thank her for that.”
Logan Todhunter was a record-setter and state champion at Ithaca who went on to a brilliant career at Division III Williams College. Logan finished her college career with 11 NCAA individual titles, having won the 100- and 200-yard butterfly events all four years and the 200 IM her last three years. She competed this summer at the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 100 butterfly.
Rebel is making her own way in Ithaca swimming, and has already made a name for herself — even when you set aside her unique appellation. Last year, as a freshman, she qualified for the state meet in the 100 fly and finished 28th in the preliminaries in a time of 1 minute, 0.39 seconds. She is already in her fourth year on the varsity.
As she did last year, she has qualified for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association meet, also in the 100 fly with a qualifying time of 59.64 seconds. She will be joined at states by teammates Hannah Bollinger (200/500 freestyle), Cecile Browning (200/500 freestyle), Ayla Bonniwell (diving) and Kayla Sherwyn, who will swim both the 200 and 400 freestyle relays with Browning, Todhunter and Bollinger.
This year’s state meet is Nov. 16-17 in the new Aquatics Pavilion at the Athletics & Events Center at Ithaca College.
The third of four children of Rory Todhunter and Susan Fubini, both professors at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Rebel does not mind the comparisons to her older sister. In fact, she is willing to endure four more years of comparisons, as Williams is on her early list of colleges she might like to attend.
In this installment of “Five Questions,” we ask Todhunter about her goals, her take on this summer’s Olympics and her cool first name.
How did you get the name “Rebel?” My dad’s Australian; I’m named after Rebel Penfold, the daughter of an Australian winemaker. They named me after her. (According to Susan Fubini, Rebel Penfold Russell is an Australian actress/filmmaker, apparently related to the winemakers.)
What has it been like following in the footsteps of a successful older sister? It’s sometimes pressure to be, like, under my sister. She’s an NCAA champion and everything, on the record board (at Ithaca) and stuff. I get compared to her a lot, especially because we both do butterfly. But she’s helped me a lot, with technique and especially with the mental side, preparing for races, because I tend to get very nervous — to the point where I’m shaking. But she doesn’t, she’s not really like that, and she’s helped me a lot through that.
You also play lacrosse. How did that come about? I started because my friends do it, and I wanted to try it. I wasn’t very good at it at first, but I’ve gotten a lot better. I wouldn’t say I’m great, but I’m OK. I really like it.
What was most memorable for you about the Olympic swimming? I mostly noticed how Ryan Lochte, who’s one of my favorites and has been working really hard, was able to pull through and beat Michael Phelps, finally. I think Michael Phelps was a little bit less motivated after winning eight gold medals. Ryan’s a really good role model for hard work.
What are your goals for this year’s state meet? I would love to get to finals, because I didn’t make it last year. And I’m hoping to get a new best time, maybe hit 58 (seconds), but it’s not really about the time. It’s about feeling good and swimming fast.