Andover High swimming coach Marilyn Fitzgerald is effusive with her praise of Ashlee Korsberg.
“All-American swim capabilities aside, Ashlee has become the most committed and focused student-athlete I have coached in more than 40 years,” said the legendary coach.
Korsberg ranks with the greats to come out of Andover. Coupled with her academic accomplishments — National Honor Society student ranked in the top 10 percent of her class — Korsberg was going to be quite a catch for some top program.
Notre Dame and Dartmouth came at her hard but she decided to follow in her sister Kristi’s footsteps and swim at Harvard.
“Harvard was my favorite,” said Korsberg, the Moynihan Scholar-Athlete of the Month for November. “I was just hoping I could get in. I’m just really excited. I worked really hard through high school to get good grades and with my swimming.”
Long nights were the rule rather than the exception.
“During the high school swim season, I went to bed after 12 almost every night. I had so much work to do,” said Korsberg, a four-time Eagle-Tribune All-Star and four-time All-Scholastic.
Fitzgerald said, “Ashlee long ago realized it takes an indomitable will and an ability to put forth a level of work few are willing to do in order to be successful at the level she has achieved in and out of the classroom.”
Athletic ability runs in the family. Kristi went on to captain Harvard her senior year (2011) and Ashlee’s twin sister, Alexa, was another standout in the pool. She’ll be continuing her career at Division 3 power Kenyon College in Ohio.
The Korsbergs’ cousins, the Zahoruikos of North Andover, have made names for themselves in soccer, lacrosse, basketball, skiing, hockey and football.
Ashlee found out early on swimming was her sport.
“My twin and I got into it when we were five,” said the 5-foot-7 Korsberg. “When I was younger, it wasn’t my favorite sport. I did a lot of other sports. I wasn’t very good at basketball or soccer or lacrosse.”
Korsberg also has a love of music.
“I’ve played the cello for nine years,” she said. “I just take private lessons. I can’t really imagine not playing it.”
Korsberg was on a record-setting pace this fall. She won four events at North Sectionals including smashing her own meet record with a 4:54.49 clocking in the 500-yard freestyle. Her 1:51.57 was also the fastest time in the state this year in the 200 freestyle. But she had a stomach bug which limited her at Division 1 States.
“I got sick a night or two before,” she began. “I was throwing up a lot. At States, I still wasn’t 100 percent. I was pretty weak. I was just happy Mrs. Fitz and Becky (Pierce, the assistant coach) allowed me to swim in the relays.”
It would have been easy to complain about her fate or lobby to swim in the individual events. But she knew in her weakened state that wouldn’t be best for the team. That maturity and leadership isn’t lost on Fitzgerald.
“She takes charge of the group she swims with and has brought them all to levels they never believed they could accomplish,” said the coach.
Follow Michael Muldoon on Twitter under the screen name @MullyET.