Feature by Kristen Heiss
COLLEGE STATION, Texas, November 6. OFTEN overlooked because of its small population and remote location, Wyoming is certainly not considered a hot spot of swimming. With only 500,000 people and one 50-meter pool in the entire state, there certainly are disadvantages that must be overcome to swim competitively in Wyoming.
Every weekend, high school teams drive anywhere from three to six hours, often times in snowy and icy weather conditions, to compete against each other. Despite these disadvantages, the Wyoming High School State Swim Meet in Gillete, Wyoming on October 30 was the fastest in state history.
TJ Padova, a senior from Gillete and the 2008 Wyoming Swimmer of the Meet and Swimmer of the Year, won the 200 and 500 free and swam on two winning relays. TJ set state records in both of her individual events and helped her relay teams break state records in the 200 medley and 400 free relays. TJ said she became a distance swimmer during the summer and that it had been her goal all year to break the 500 state record. TJ broke it both in prelims and finals.
"I dove in and just felt good. I didn't know I had it at first."
It wasn't until TJ saw her coach jumping up and down that she realized she was the state record holder.
In the 200 free, TJ won with a time of 1:51.68, which was another state record and nearly a five-second drop from her time at the 2007 high school state meet. She won the event by more than seven seconds, but TJ says that swimming without competition is not a problem for her.
"I watch the clock in practice. What pushes me is me passing someone else. At meets, I don't think ‘Oh I need to beat this person.' I look at the clock and say I need to beat the clock."
TJ, who is going to swim for the University of Wyoming next year, is excited to continue her swimming career and see how she progresses.
"My goal is to eventually make it to the Olympic Trials in 2012. I just want to be the best I can be, keep lowering my times and getting best times."
Another swimmer that helped re-write the record books was Morgan Hartigan from Cheyenne, Wyoming. Morgan's winning time of 1:04.34 erased the oldest state record, previously set in 1982, from the record books.
Morgan said that breaking the state record in the 100 breaststroke was not originally in her goal plan for the season, but as the season progressed, she began to think it was a possibility.
"It wasn't [my goal] at the beginning of the year, but started to be when I started going faster, like 1:06 and 1:07, in the middle of the season."
For Morgan, breaking the oldest high school state record in Wyoming was a little surreal.
"It felt like a dream. It didn't feel real. I got out of the water and kept having to look back up there [at the scoreboard]. It didn't feel like it really happened."
Morgan has found a mentor in her older sister, Kaella, who is a breaststroker for the University of Wyoming.
"Kaella always gets me pumped up and sends me text messages."
Morgan says that Kaella even tells her what songs to listen to on her iPod before she races.
With one more year of high school swimming left, Morgan is hoping that she can "get a couple of more seconds off the time that I went this year."
It was not just upperclassmen making waves at the Wyoming High School State meet. Shaya Schaedler, a freshman for Gillette, swam her way to first-place finishes in the 50 freestyle and the 100 backstroke, and was also on the winning 200 medley and 400 free relays with TJ.
Although it did not seem to affect her swims, Shaya said the meet was nerve-racking.
"I was probably the most nervous I have ever been but I really just wanted to go out there and do my best."
Besides nerves from being at her first high school state meet, Shaya said it was hard to mentally prepare to swim against upperclassmen.
"It was really intimidating. I'm kinda used to it but it's still kind of intimidating. I hung out with my friends to take my mind off things."
Shaya dealt with the added pressures well.
"A few minutes before my race I just concentrated on what I wanted to do and knew all my hard work was going to pay off."
Shaya's hard work certainly did pay off. With a win in the 100 back with a time of 57.48, which was her best time by two seconds, and another win in the 50 free, Shaya accomplished her goals for the season.
"I really just wanted to go a best time. I wanted to go a low 24 [in the 50 free] and 57 [in the 100 back] and that was my goal for this year."
Shaya met both of her goals by also winning the 50 free in a time of 24.02.
Although Shaya won two individual events, her favorite race of the meet was the 400 free relay with her teammates from Gillette.
"We broke the state record and got an All American consideration time. It was really exciting because it was the last event and the last chance to make your mark."
Hopefully with TJ, Morgan, and Shaya's recent successes and contributions to the five new state records set, swimmers in Wyoming will continue the trend of fast swimming. Although swimming is often overlooked in Wyoming, these girls continue to make headway in making names for themselves and the state through their efforts in the sport of swimming.