STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
At 5:30 a.m., before most people even get out of bed, Marble Falls High School swimmers Taylor Ashbaugh and Landry Stewart are usually well on their way to Nitro Bee Cave Swim Center for swim practice.
Then, after a full school day, they return to Nitro for an afternoon practice.
It’s a training schedule they maintain six days a week.
Both say qualifying for the Class 5A state meet makes every second of those practices and travel worth it.
But Ashbaugh, a freshman, said she wasn’t surprised about advancing to the top meet.
“I know we worked hard going into this,” she said. “I know the hard work paid off.”
“I didn’t really know,” Stewart said about her thoughts on making the state meet.
She pointed out that high school swimming in Texas is very competitive.
The two swimmers, as well as the school, will make their debut at the state meet this weekend. Marble Falls is in its first year of University Interscholastic League competition.
Preliminaries are 5:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15, at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center, 1900 Red River St. on the University of Texas at Austin campus. If they finish in the top eight, they’ll advance to the finals, which will start at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16.
Stewart qualified in two events at the regional meet Feb. 1-2: the 200-yard individual medley in a time of 2 minutes 11.81 seconds and the 500-yard freestyle in 5:17.54. Ashbaugh qualified in the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:07.53.
Stewart, who stands 5 feet 5 inches, the same height as Ashbaugh, describes swimming as a “sport for tall people.” Michael Phelps, at 6 feet 4 inches, has won 28 Olympic medals, making him the most decorated Olympian of all time. Most female swimmers stand 5-9.
What they don’t have in height, the two Marble Falls swimmers make up with heart and competitiveness.
“I feel like I have to work pretty hard,” Stewart said.
That was especially true in qualifying for two events at the state meet. Her favorite stroke is the freestyle, but she noted she also enjoys the individual medley, which consists of the freestyle, butterfly, backstroke, and breaststroke.
“I really like the (individual medley),” Stewart said. “Four different strokes doesn’t feel like as much work. It feels like four different sprints. I like distance, too. I’m not great at sprints. I like being able to have a larger distance.”
Ashbaugh fell in love with the breaststroke almost from the first moment, but it took her awhile to learn how to perform it correctly.
In fact, when she first began competing in the breastroke, she would get disqualified during races because she wasn’t properly executing it. Ashbaugh thrived on the challenge of getting it correct.
As for the competition at the state meet, mere seconds separate the fastest swimmers. The two Lady Mustangs are in the middle of the pack based on their qualifying times.
“There are some bruisers,” Stewart said of the competition. “(My goal is) to do something I’m proud of.”
Ashbaugh said her attitude comes down to one thing:
“If you don’t want it, then why are you doing it?” she said.
Bet the two will ask themselves that question when they step onto the blocks for their preliminary races.