One girl is closing out her high school swim career and the other’s time in the prep pool is breaking out of its infancy. They’re at opposite ends of the school spectrum, but their goals are identical: To make a splash at the 3A state meet next month.
On Monday afternoon at the Juanita High Pool, Rebel senior Maja Evans — who has been to state the last two years in all three relays — worked out with her team after school, and then Lake Washington freshman Amelia Hammer and her Kang crew took over the pool when their colleagues were finished.
They cross paths at the local pool and aim to do the same at state at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way. Hammer has already qualified for state in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 25.21 seconds, and Evans is bent on getting either individual or relay state marks the next two weekends at the KingCo and district meets.
“It’s definitely an adventure,” Evans said about swimmers gunning for state times. “Everyone else on the team, they get so hyped up to swim relays, especially, ‘cause you’re there with three other swimmers and you’re just all huddled around and (saying), ‘We gotta make this time, we gotta kick some butt here.’”
A bit of nervousness crept in when Hammer first stepped onto the pool deck for a KingCo meet, but she was soon overcome with excitement and was glad to have her friends on the team by her side.
Nailing that state time last week against Juanita was huge.
“I was just really motivated and I really wanted it. I really wanted to make state in the dual meet season before I got to postseason. I just had this feeling that I was gonna do it, and I dove in and I gave it my all and I swam it,” she said. LW also possesses a strong diving group and some relays that are shooting for state marks.
Here, we dip into each girl’s swimming journey.
The Rebel senior, who says it feels like she’s been swimming for “forever and a half,” begins three of her school-week mornings with a beeping alarm at 4:30 a.m. Gold’s Aquatics club practice runs from 5:30-6:45 a.m. in Woodinville, then she heads to school, has practice afterward and then dives into Gold’s training again.
Evans doesn’t even think about how early she’s rising on those days. It’s just something that’s part of her swimming life.
Here’s what goes on in her mind when those days start: “OK, where’s the swimsuit? Where’s the towel? Where’s my toothbrush? Where’s the food? Where’s my car keys? OK, I’m out the door. Put in some tunes on the way up, jack them up all the way so I don’t fall asleep on the way to the pool. Get in — the water’s cold enough to wake me up and then I’m just going,” she rattled away with a smile.
Last year at state, Juanita’s 400-yard freestyle relay team — which featured Evans, Tova Andersson, Samantha Haong and Victoria Truswell — took eighth place at state in 3:42.96. The foursome also took ninth in the 200-yard freestyle relay, winning the B final in 1:42.17.
Evans said this fall, her 400 free relay and 200-yard medley relay have been close to hitting state times. The 50 free and 100-yard freestyle are also on her state-qualifying docket: “I like just putting my head down and sprinting, going down and back,” she said.
Juanita coach Patrick Monson’s eyes light up when he discusses Evans’ contribution to the team.
“She’s a positive kid, really hard worker. She’s the tone setter of practice,” said Monson, adding that Evans isn’t a yeller, but a doer when it comes to leading the way. “She’ll go first and she’ll push herself as hard as she can, and the other kids notice that.”
Swimming has taught Evans to buckle down, hold her breath and plow through whatever she’s faced with. She added that it’s enthralling to finish intense sets at practice and either coming close to or setting top marks.
When she sees her teammates achieve their goals as well, “It creates such a whirlpool of excitement and ambience that I just love,” she said.
Evans enjoys spending time with her teammates during all those hours in the pool each week. She laughs when discussing the close bonds that are formed with teammates wearing swimsuits: “Everyone’s very open to one another. You kind of have that environment when everyone’s half naked in front of each other half the time.”
The 4.0 student said she’s always been competitive academically with her close peer group and that translates into her drive to succeed in the pool.
After LW coach David Hale reminded his squad at Monday’s practice about Hammer’s state time and that she would be speaking with the Reporter, the Kangs cheered loudly. Hammer received pats on the back and her smile just about lit up the building.
Turning back the clock, Hammer said she first became acquainted with the water six months after she was born in Florida. Her family had a pool and “I would always try and get into the pool somehow. And so my mom decided that she wanted me to take lessons so I wouldn’t drown,” Hammer said with a laugh.
She began swimming competitively in third grade and noted that her mom saw some talent there and knew her daughter would be involved in the sport for a long time.
This year, Hammer competes for both LW and Pro Swimming in Bellevue. Her mornings aren’t as crazy as Evans’ since the Kang practices with her school team in the afternoon and then with Pro in the evening.
“It’s been really good. I’ve been doing club and high school, so I think that definitely helped. I’ve been more in shape this year than I have in the past years,” she said.
Like Juanita’s Monson said of Evans, Hale noted that hard work and positivity are the hallmarks of Hammer’s success.
“She never says a bad word about anyone. She’s always smiling and always happy to be here, all those good things that we look for. We’re excited to have her now for the next four years,” he said.
Hammer familiarized herself with the LW program when a friend invited her to attend some meets as a Rose Hill Middle School eighth-grader. She said the meets were exciting and she liked how all the swimmers supported one another.
She’s thrilled to be part of the Kang squad and said that swimming is second nature to her now.
“I’ve been swimming for a really long time and it’s always been something that’s really relaxing for me. Whenever I’m in a bad mood, I just go and I swim and I always feel better,” said Hammer, who notches high grades in school and especially enjoys her math and biology classes.
Hammer is now ready to tackle a course in state swimming, and see how she stacks up against the top girls in the 3A division.