Local swimmer has meet of her life

13-year-old sets breaststroke record and beats role model in Rifle meet

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— At the age of 13, Steamboat Springs swimmer Heather Whiting knows all too well the power of peer pressure.

Whiting could feel the eyes of her teammates focusing on her as she sliced through the water toward the finish line of the 100-meter breaststroke in Rifle last Saturday. Whiting won the heat and posted the fastest time of the day in the event with a record time of 1 minute, 12.61 seconds.

Why was there so much pressure?

In the lane next to her was one of her own role models, Craig's Cammi Hillewaert. Hillewaert, who at the age of 18 is one of the top swimmers in the state, finished second in the heat to the young Steamboat star with a time of 1:13.34.

"It was my best time ever," Whiting said. "She really pushes me."

Both swimmers were awarded first-place points, however, since they swim in two different divisions. But beating the Moffat County swimmer has been a long-time goal of Whiting's.

"It was fun swimming in the same heat as the older swimmers," Whiting said.

Unfortunately, it is rare for Whiting and Hillewaert to swim in the same heat. Usually, the younger 13- and 14-year-old swimmers compete in one group while the older 15- to 18-year-old swimmers compete in another.

"I like to take the lead at the start and then try to hold on," Whiting said. "So I led the whole way and let the other swimmers push me to the finish. Beating her (Hillewaert) was definitely a highlight in my swimming career."

The Steamboat swim team will be looking for some more season highlights this Saturday when the squad heads to Craig for a huge meet.

"It's just like a home meet for us," Whiting said. "I'm still hoping to make some of my zone times."

With most of the Steamboat team's swimmers already qualified for the Western Slope Championships, swim coach Essi Kentalla will be trying to keep her swimmers on top of their game in Craig.

Kentalla said her team is looking forward to this weekend's meet in Moffat County. More than 50 local swimmers are expected to make the 45-minute drive to compete, she said.

"This is a big deal for us," Kentalla said. "We are hoping to get a few more swimmers qualified and this will be one of our last chances."

Kentalla said that more than 90 percent of the team has already earned an invitation to the end-of-season championships, but the Craig meet and another in Rangely on July 14-16 will be the team's last regular-season opportunities.

The team will head to the Western Slope Championships on July 21-23. The team will also compete in the Silver State Championships and the Junior Olympic Championships next month. The younger Steamboat swimmers will also be headed to the 8-and-under Festival scheduled for July 26.

Other swimmers posting first-place times in last week's meet in Rifle were Charlotte Letson, Emily Hines, Christine Roberts, Blake Worsley, Hestia Chase and Charlie Stoddard.


To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail jrussell@amigo.net

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