With Early And Company, Olympia Swim Team Makes A Big Splash In The Pool And The Classroom


Olympia SwimmersBy Gail Wood

They can sing, swim and think.

They’re the Olympia High School swim team, the state academic champs the past two years, excelling in the pool and in the classroom. They lost only once in dual meets during the season and placed sixth at district.

Last year, Bears coach Mel Smith gave 19 of his swimmers an award for having a GPA of 3.5 or better. It’s a team of braniacs.

Miranda Early, a senior and a three-time state qualifier, carries a 3.99 GPA. Her only “B” in high school came in calculus. The only time she got a “C” on her report card was when she was in fourth grade.

“I cried really hard,” Early said with a laugh. “I worked really hard for that “B” in calculus so I’m okay with that.”

Early, like her teammates, isn’t just a bright student or just a talented swimmer. She’s both. She’s qualified for state in two individual events (the 100-yard butterfly and the 100-yard backstroke) and two relays (medley relay and the 400-yard freestyle).

“I enjoy the relays more,” Early said. “There’s almost less pressure. You wouldn’t expect that because if you mess up you mess up for everyone. But there’s less pressure because you have the support of your team.”

Early admitted she’s a little surprised she qualified for state in the backstroke.

“I hated the backstroke,” she said. “I always felt I was drowning. But I tried it and found I’m not too bad at it.”

Kelsey Forbord is another example of a student-athlete for the Bears. In addition to good grades, she’s a three-time state qualifier, advancing in two relays and the 100 backstroke. She’ll swim the butterfly leg in the medley relay and swim a leg on the 400 freestyle relay.

“Back in the day, I was more of an IMer,” Forbord said. “Miranda and I are like twins in swimming. It’s kind of ridiculous.”

And, thanks to Alice Henderson, Olympia’s got talent as singers. Henderson will sing God Bless America for the second year at the state meet in Federal Way. She didn’t qualify as a swimmer. But she did as a singer.

Henderson had sung the National Anthem at home meets, so Smith asked her if she’d like to sing  at state. She accepted.

“As long as I practice, I don’t get nervous,” Henderson said.

All eight of the Olympia swimmers headed to state swim on club teams. During the season they swim five afternoons a week with their school team and three mornings a week with their club team. In a year, they’ll swim 300 days.

“They’re aware of the demands of the sport,” Smith said. “Committing yourself and organizing yourself in one thing leads to doing it in other things.”

Like in the classroom. Last year, Olympia’s swim team had a cumulative GPA of 3.7.

Olympia’s eight qualifiers for the state meet, which begins Friday at the Weyerhaeuser Pool in Federal Way, are Early, Forbord, Sarah Norman, Hannah Flotlin, Chelsea Norman, Charlotte Smith, Taylor Jones and Reagan Underland.

Sarah Norman, while only a freshman, is a prodigy in the pool. Last year as an eighth grader, she had already swam a state qualifying time in the 100 butterfly. So, she didn’t come into the season not expecting to make state.

She’s been swimming year around on a club team and has been swimming competitively for eight years. While only a freshman, she’s an old pro in the pool.

“She’s a very talented swimmer,” Smith said. “She works hard. We have a very good crop of freshmen turning out.”

Olympia’s four team captains are Early, Forbord, Chelsea Norman and Sasha England, who injured her shoulder two-thirds into the season.

Olympia started the season with 46 kids turning out and finished with 42. Smith, who has been coaching for 30 years and five years at Olympia, has for the first time an assistant coach in Ken Rice. Smith attributed his large turnout to one factor – a successful program. He also has a knack for making a hard workout sound like fun.

“I always tell my team that you make it fun when you win,” Smith said.

And the Bears have been winners.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email