February 19th, 2013

SHA Swim Team Winning and Having Fun

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Conor Revell

Staff Writer

SHA Swim Team Winning and Having Fun
Valkyries get set to jump in the pool / file photo by Conor Revell

Valkyries eye state championship this weekend

Sacred Heart’s swimming program has racked up 23 state titles, with the last one coming in 2011. The Valkyries hope a group of freshmen and sophomores, not the usual veterans, lead them to a 24th this weekend.

On Feb. 9 the Valkyries won the Second Region title by outscoring second-place Manual by a whopping 590-276. Come Saturday, Sacred Heart will compete as the team favorites to win the KHSAA State Swim Meet at the Ralph B. Wright Natatorium.

“One thing our team has talked about all year is to put our team first,” Sacred Heart head coach Jim Luebbe said. “If each individual can contribute to the team, then we can go places. Secondly, it’s about having fun. Sometimes people get so excited for meets like this and they put a lot of pressure on themselves. Our primary goal is to have a good time.”

Luebbe has the help of Lakeside Swim Club head coach Mike DeBoor who’s the primary coach for a lot of these girls.

Paving the way for DeBoor and Luebbe are sophomores Leah Stevens, Victoria Horsman and freshmen Kennedy Lohman, Asia Seidt and Brooke Bauer.

The Valkyries have never won more than eight events at state, but could the 2013 team set a new benchmark for the program?

“This group of Sacred Heart girls have grown up and come a long way,” DeBoor said. “The comrade and closeness of that group is contagious. It keeps them honest training with the Lakeside program. The fact that they’re a group of elite swimmers keeps them honest every single day.”

Talented sophomore doing great things

In regionals, Stevens won the 200-yard freestyle, 500 free and swam legs on the winning the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.

“Leah leads by her work ethic and example,” Luebbe said. “She really focuses on her work ethic day in and day out. Her teammates have copied her. She’s works at a high level all the time. But it’s her smile that lights up a room. I think that’s another part of her that people admire her for. She’s one that know when to turn on the determination switch, and then she knows how to turn that off and relax and be a fun and an enjoyable person.”  

As a freshman, Stevens won the 500 freestyle in the regional and placed in the top five in the 200 free, then won the 200 free and placed second in the 500 free at the state meet.

“Leah’s turning point came during the spring of her eighth-grade year,” DeBoor said. “She made the decisions on something to stay on top of a certain level with regards to training. She had a tougher time making the high school meets the most important thing. That’s something that we worked on after nationals, trying to make her better towards the high school side.”  

A year later, Stevens is considered a top contender to win in four events.

“After that we worked on her mentally to make her step up towards the high school side,” DeBoor said. “Part of it is that you compete hard. But times aren’t always important. We approached her and said that she needs to approach the regionals and states as a playoff game.”

The  three newbies

You don’t expect freshmen to do big things, but Bauer, Lohman and Siedt are doing just that.

“All three of them are competitive and determined,” Luebbe said. “You don’t get into a high level into this sport unless you put the time into it. These girls have definitely earned their success based on the fact that they put forth a great effort. I think they have talent, but they have really put forth the effort to get there.”

Along with Horsman, the freshman trio set a new regional record of 1:43.34 in the 200 medley relay.

With lofty expectations to come in the state meet, it’s DeBoor’s job to keep them focused.

“We haven’t set time goals or anything like that,” Luebbe said. “We just talk about supporting one another and making sure we achieve the team goals. I think a lot of these things will happen if they’re going to happen. We know that they’ll give their best effort and that we won’t put too much effort on them. The main goal of relays is to have fun and get it done.”

Lohman swam in the state meet last year as a Kentucky County Day eighth-grader and placed in the top 10 in the 200 IM and 100 yard breaststroke.

But she didn’t even win the 200 IM in the regional. Siedt finished first in 2:03:76, eight-tenths of a second better than Lohman.

“This group is very good,” DeBoor said. “They have a long road ahead. Hopefully they’ll continue so they can become even better collegiate swimmers. They have better things ahead, but they need to be excited about what’s going on now. We need for them be successful this weekend in order to be successful in the future. They’re a somewhat quiet and conservative group, though. They’re very quiet and reserved.”

Like Lohman, this isn’t the first time Seidt is swimming at state. Seidt bolted her way to the top five in the 200 IM, 100 yard breaststroke, and 400 yard freestyle as an eighth-grader at North Oldham last year.

Along with her 200 IM win, Seidt also won the 100 backstroke and swam a leg on the winning 400 relay in regionals.

Then, there’s Bauer who didn’t even swim in the state meet as an eighth- grader. At regionals she had top-10 finishes in the 50 free, 100 free and swam on the 400 relay team that won.

“We’ll go over what they can expect at the state meet for the first time,” Luebbe said. “We also have sophomores, juniors and seniors on our team. They’ll take them under their wing. I think the key is to go out there and do your thing. That’s something I think freshmen will take comfort in, and that’s to go out and do what you’re good at.”

DeBoor agrees.

“We will keep it simple,” he said. “Don’t get wrapped up about the other swimmers’ times. We will find a way to win. In practice we worry about times, but once we get to the meet we focus on swimming. We’ll worry about records later, have a good time and relax.”

It all comes back to having to having fun and loving each other.

“This is something that has to happen with time,” Luebbe said. “When you add those elements, the most important thing is that you trust one another. That’s the most important thing. With their support, they’ll continue to perform at a high level. We make sure there is an equal amount of love for everybody on this team.”

With a group like Stevens, Bauer, Lohman and Siedt, comparisons to the Valkyries teams with Olympic gold medalist and world record-holder Mary T. Magher are being made.

“This group of swimmer is a part of some of the top swimming classes that swam in the 80’s and n90’s,” Luebbe said. “We will see what happens this weekend, to see if they really are. But our focus, though, is making sure that we support each other, have fun, and all the other things will work out.” 

But it isn’t all about swimming for the Valkyries, as they have bonded in and out of the pool.

“One of the great things about this is the team dynamics,” Luebbe said. “I would like for these girls to say 20 years from now, ‘Remember when we did this or this?’ They realize this. That’s why our team is awesome. It’s not just about swimming. Swimming is important, but it’s more important about becoming friends for life rather than these next four years.”

Don’t forget about the juniors

Junior Madison Litchtefield, Ashley LeClair placed in the top five in three events in regionals and won the 200 yard freestyle relay with Stevens and freshmen Molly O’Hara.

“These two have done quite well this year,” Luebbe said. “They’ve played an important role in our relay team. I think have people there having done this is a reassurance for everyone else.”

Only time will tell if the Valkyries can start a streak of state titles. 


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