Coming Of Age: The Ruby Martin Story

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Editorial Coverage provided by Suit-extractor-logo

Commentary by Michael J. Stott

What struck me first was the diminutive size, cherubic face and the pink suit. The fact that she qualified 11th in the 200 fly out of 103 swimmers seemed, well, unusual given that fewer than 25 percent of swimmers at these at Trials were posting best times. In Ruby Martin’s case, the 5’6” sprite had gone from 2:12.69 to 2:11.62.

A breathless postrace interview revealed genuine shock – and joy. “I’ve been working my butt off all summer for this moment and that race really bumped up my confidence,” she said. A key, she related, was a decision to take the first 100 out faster (done in 1:02.39). The fact that she had already swum more than half of her seven Trials events program was an added plus.

“I told myself on the blocks that I have swum this race so many times I just had to let my body go and do what I normally do. I felt like maybe I could take it out a little faster and maybe make semifinals,” she confided. Mission accomplished.

To Hawkeye State swimming cognoscenti, the name Ruby Martin is familiar. A rising junior at West High in Iowa City, this Iowa Flyer club team member is the state’s number one ranked female swimmer. Primarily an IM, fly and distance free specialist Martin has considerable versatility. Through June 10 she held 40 short and long course state records (ages 9-10 through Open) and 92 Iowa Flyer club records. And she is only 16-years-old.

“I swim a lot of events and in the last year have focused on IM and fly,” she said. One of three Iowa Flyers at this meet she credits club coaches Richard Salhus and Robert Pinter with her training and allowing her to qualify for eight events at Trials (the most of anyone in the state).

As if that were enough, as a 14-year-old, she was a member of the NCSA All-Star team that competed in the Irish Open where she won the 400 IM, 200 free and 200 butterfly.

Coming in her Trials program entry sheet looked like this:

Event                                                    Psych Sheet Rank                 

  • 200 free                                     67/119
  • 400 free                                     43/109
  • 200 IM                                       47/132
  • 400 IM                                       43/138
  • 200 fly                                       33/103
  • 200 back                                    70/143
  • 100 fly                                       49/141

Early results had her falling a bit short of seed placement until the 200 fly at which time she hit another gear. If Martin’s 11th place qualification for the 200 fly semifinals was the attainment on an outside dream, her 2:10.67 semi-final swim, good for eighth was almost beyond her ken – until Thursday night’s final.

Amidst all the fanfare (and with all the glitz, sound, walkout excitement there is a lot of it) Martin leapt from starting block eight. Registering the second fastest reaction time, a .67 behind Kelsi Worrell‘s .64, Martin hit the first wall in third (28.97). Seventh at the 100 (1:01.84) and the 150 (1:35.44), she charged home with the fourth fastest split (33.60) to clock a lifetime best of 2:09.96 – good for fourth place.

Following the race, and in front of a camera, Martin was literally speechless for 30 seconds.

“Are you happy?” asked a reporter.

”Yes, I am. I don’t know what I feel. I can’t even imagine coming in fourth place. I just wanted to make the semifinal. I can’t believe I got fourth. It’s definitely the ultimate goal. After being here a while I thought maybe I could do a 2:09, but after the semis I was a little unsure.”

“Do you feel like you belong now?”

There was silence followed by a broad grin and nod of the head.

Regardless of what happens in Martin’s remaining events it is clear that her swimming journey continues at an accelerated pace. There is a tangible silver lining in this young lady’s performance. The top two under 18-year-old swimmers at Trials win spots on the 2019 Pan American Games roster (Lima, Peru). Thursday only NCAP’s Cassidy Bayer, also 16 and the third finisher with a 2:08.68, was faster.

Game on!

Watch Ruby Martin’s Interview From Finals:

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  1. avatar
    Bill Bell

    I’venoticed how she’s been gradually moving up the age- group rankings and appears headed for a major breakthrough in get tear or so.

    Who knows?

    Time Yokyo,rolls around she’ll be swimming the 200 got that’ll make Cami Adams green with envy!

    Go get ’em, Ruby.

  2. avatar

    What a great interview! I loved the questions, especially the you can talk line. Sixteen years old and pure joy, as it should be. You go girl!

  3. avatar
    Robert Pinter

    I have coached Ruby for the last four years and I have to say that she is an awesome person and as sweet as she appears on the video. In addition her results can attributed to consistent hard work and smart approach to training. She absolutely deserves the accolades she is getting. Go Ruby! This is the beginning of her world ranked career! Last but not least I would be remiss if I didn’t state that I do not know either of the coaches that you listed in the article. Her real coaches are Richard Salhus and Robert Pinter.

  4. avatar

    Unbelievable performance, ruby! Stay humble and thankful, keep having fun!

  5. avatar
    Robert Pinter

    Thank you for fixing the names of Ruby’s coaches!

    • avatar
      Taylor Brien

      You’re welcome! Sorry for the mix-up!

  6. avatar
    Mary E Martin

    Strength and Honor, Ruby..
    Repeating what her coach Richard said to me “i didn’t do anything.. Ruby did it all..”
    Thank you SW for such a special interview and wonderful article.
    And thank you to the many fans and family and friends and even strangers who cheered her on in Omaha and who screamed madly at their television screens and iPads and cell phones in her support.

    • avatar
      Pegi Anton

      The most amazing swim Ruby Martin. Thank you. 🙂 We had so much fun watching you, I had to ask who won the race. I am so impressed with how you have handled all that was placed in front of you at Trials. Keep swimming….stay grounded. We can’t wait to see what is next. (And love you not matter your futures hold.) You are a great kid.

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