Competitive Drive: Valley Center athlete qualifies for every state swimming event

Competitive Drive

NEWTON, Kan. (KSNW) – Valley Center’s Caroline Tipton started her junior swim season with an ambitious goal: Meeting all 11 of the state swimming qualification times.

“I was a little bit nervous for a couple of races, like the 100-meter butterfly and the 500-meter freestyle, but I had a goal and set my mind to it,” said Tipton. “It’s nice to have a goal.”

While Tipton may have had her doubts, her high school swim coach, Abra Thieme, knew she was capable from their first day of practice last year, before the spring season was canceled amid the pandemic.

“When I met her last year, we had a week of practice with the girls and we did time trials — her time trial times were already state consideration times,” said Thieme. “When we got in the water for time trials this year, and we already knew what to expect with Caroline.”

As Thieme builds the Valley Center swim program, which is only in its third year, it is important to have athletes like Tipton on board in order to set a positive example.

“Caroline has really taken on that role of being a good leader even though she is a junior,
said Thieme. “I think some girls can be intimidated by how well she swims, but she is so humble with it.”

Tipton qualified for one of her most challenging events, the 100-meter butterfly, by .2 seconds. “I feel elated that I have that goal accomplished, the second that I looked up on that scoreboard after I made the time, I was just glowing,” said Tipton. “I looked over and I saw my friends cheering so loud, that made me so happy — I just want to feel that after every event.”

“It’s not just for herself, it’s so we can all be her biggest fans on this team,” said Thieme.

While she is only able to compete in four state events, Tipton is setting her sights on the podium headed into state: “There’s some good girls at state, but I think I have a chance against them.”

With another season with Valley Center to look forward to, Tipton will use her times as a benchmark, as she becomes her biggest competition.

“Part of the reason that it helped to have that goal was for next year, my senior year — now, I have a guideline of my times, and what every event feels like so I can continue to beat my times now that I have all the state times,” said Tipton.

Because the Hornets don’t have a diving coach, Tipton was unable to qualify for all 12 events at state, but she is thinking about setting a new goal for her senior season.

“Maybe next year I’ll try and steal the last event and set the record for the school,” said Tipton.

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