When you meet Stephanie, you are quick to realize that great things will certainly come from this Snow Canyon Lady Warrior. Voted by her peers as “Most likely to go to the Olympics,” the young freshman makes no excuse for her size in a sport where height/length is an asset.
Crediting her coaches for pushing her to improve and seek out her best each time she enters the water, Stephanie shows serious commitment. “I swim six days a week, three hours a day. Right after school, it’s straight to the pool, and we don’t just swim either,” says the swimmer. “We do a lot of ‘Dry Land’ work as well, a lot of sit-ups, pushups, and running. We really go hard with conditioning each day.”
Stephanie loves to compete in the same event made popular by the famous Olympian and World Record holder, Michael Phelps, the 200-meter Butterfly. She currently comes away with a personal best of 2:11.94, which she hopes to soon break. Stephanie also races in what is considered one of the most mentally and physically exhausting races, the 400IM (individual medley). With a time of just over 4:46, Stephanie is not far off the Olympic record of 4:28.43, set by China’s Ye Shiwen in London 2012.
Swimming requires a great deal of concentration and discipline. “You are working to shave tenths off a second off your time,” says Stephanie, and she gets high marks on both accounts.
Providing no out for herself, Stephanie is a fierce competitor. “My tempo has to be way faster than everyone else,” she states. “Being 5’2” can be a bit intimidating. My brother swims too, and he is 6’2.” I really have to work my butt off just to stay ahead of him. He just laughs.”
“My club swimming coach, Robert Floerchinger, has taught us that we need to always be at our best and not be slacking off. Not just in swimming but in school too. We need to be paying attention and remain focused.” Stephanie relays how focusing on her individual medley race, stroke by stroke, helps set the tone for her academically as well. “Just like in the IM we go fly, back, breast and free. It’s the same with school–Math, Science, History. We need to be focused in all our subjects.”
Entering her first year in high school, there will be an adjustment for Stephanie. Participating in her club swimming, Stephanie will compete based upon age; but in high school, she will compete against all swimmers regardless of age or grade. With that fact, her preparation and focus level seems to have jumped up a notch or two. “Coach Tamara is such a good coach, too. I am excited to compete this year. The team is so welcoming, and everyone just comes together and is so positive about things.”
When asked if she feels intimidated about competing at the high school level, Stephanie responds with a confident smile, “I know I am small and young, but when we get in the water, I will show you who’s boss.” Yet after a troubling loss and taking 2nd in what could have been a State Record, Stephanie learned the importance of the mental part of her racing. “You can not let yourself get psyched out. You can joke around and say you’re the best, but there is always someone better, so you just have to work hard be your best. You compete against you.”
With only four years in her sport, Stephanie has really learned to hold her own rather quickly. In a sport that takes years to perfect ,it helps to love the water. “When I get in the water, it is so peaceful. It is like my home. I love just feeling the water go through my fingers with each stroke, just your whole body moving through the water. I just love it.”
First introduced to swimming as a way to get into shape for soccer, Stephanie experienced “soccer burnout” at ten years old and fully embraced swimming as something she could dominate. “With all sports, there is your team and with swimming too, but your times are you. How you compete and work out is all you. There is no real winning or losing because you are always competing against your own time.”
“You can joke around and say you’re the best, but there is always someone better, so you just have to work hard be your best. You compete against you.“
Stephanie looks to a few athletes as mentors and motivators to improve. She counts Allie Wooden of USC as someone who “would work every day no matter her height and would beat really tall swimmers. I’ve always thought she was really cool.” Stephanie also looks to Paralympian, Jessica Long, as an example of incredible work ethic despite major challenges. Stephanie says, “She had to have surgery on her legs when she was like six months old and so she does not have legs. But she doesn’t care what people think of her. She is so fast and so beautiful inside and out.”
Andrea, Stephanie’s mother, is a very big supporter. “I am so impressed that I do not have to worry about a single thing with her. She is so driven. She works hard too, with her grades and everything she does,” expresses Andrea. “I know that she is short, but with swimming, I was told once, it’s not how big you are or how strong you are, but your ability to handle pain and push through pain. I just love watching her swim that 200m Fly against the bigger and taller girls. It’s so cool.”
“Coach Tamara helps us with our goals, and this year, we have a yoga instructor, so we can be even more focused. Yoga is really tough, but I am excited for that.” Taking all that she has learned from her coaches, mentors, and her family, Stephanie has some lofty and very detailed goals for herself in and out of the water. She plans to obtain an athletic scholarship to swim for ASU. “I love that school. I went there once, and it is so pretty. Their pool is really nice. Plus, Michael Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman, is the head coach there, and I like that.”
Stephanie also hopes to one day enter the dental field and even has plans for her very own crepe truck. She already has her business name and food truck all picked out and designed. “It’s going to be like a waffle truck but way better.” Stephanie is already working on a menu and has her food permit thus being a fourteen year old, she is well on her way. “I am just getting started.” • HSSI