If there’s one thing that comes out of qualifying for the state swimming and diving championships as a freshman, it makes you want to go back again and again and again.
That was the position Eastwood’s Alyssa Decker put herself in last season, when she competed at the Division II state meet as a freshman in the 100-yard butterfly.
She qualified again in the same event this season – and also in the 200 individual medley – and she’s already thinking about next year after coming up short of the finals and consolation finals in both events last week.
“Next year I might do something different (event-wise), or we might say, ‘Now we know what to do next year,’ ” Decker said. “This will motivate me 100 percent, just like my freshman year to my sophomore year. I want to go all four years.”
|Eastwood sophomore Allyson Decker competing at the Division II state swim meet.
(Photo courtesy Joe Maiorana/Impact Action Sports Photography
Decker’s coach, Carolyn Strunk, said Decker looked much more comfortable than she did at the C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton a year ago. Strunk said Decker’s demeanor changed at the district meet at Cleveland State University, where she placed second in the 100 fly and third in the IM.
“It’s fun to work with her because she does have that drive and competitive spirit about her,” Strunk said. “I like seeing the significant difference in her outward appearance at the district meet. When I think back to a year ago, there was a little bit of twinge of fear in her face and not a lot of excitement. This year she had this look about her of ‘Don’t mess with me or get in my way, because my next stop is Canton.’ ”
Decker admitted she felt much more comfortable with her surroundings with a state meet under her belt. C.T. Branin Natatorium becomes a rockin’ place once the competition begins.
“I felt a lot more comfortable accepting it was state and everyone was going to be fast and I could compete with them,” Decker said.
Decker and Strunk both agreed that reaching the state meet in the IM was “icing on the cake,” given that Decker’s signature event is the 100 fly. The IM, however, was Decker’s first preliminary race on Thursday and she said she was nervous.
“We went over what I needed to do, which was take my butterfly out hard like I normally do and go out with the backstroke just like I did at districts,” Decker said. “My tempo was a lot better and I went a lot quicker at districts. Going into the freestyle (leg), of course, I was tired by the end. It was the state meet and I gave it all I had.”
Decker’s time of 2:13.47 in the IM was a career best, but it wasn’t enough to get her into the finals. She finished 17th (the top 16 advance), just one-tenth of a second behind Granville senior Kassandra Mestemaker (2:13.57).
The individuals with the top eight preliminary times swim in the championship finals. Placers 9-16 compete in the consolation final.
“It was a tremendous effort,” Strunk said. “It exceeded our expectations, and I think hers. Unfortunately, she fell short of making it in the top 16 in that event. In reality, we considered it a bonus for her to make it to state in the IM.”
Decker only had 15-20 minutes to prepare for the 100 fly prelims. Not only did she have to get her body right, she had to refocus and get back in the right frame of mind after the 200 IM.
“Walking around that big pool deck didn’t help,” Decker said. “It just affected the focusing part. The 200 and the butterfly are two different events and I had to get that different mindset. This is shorter and I have to do things different than the IM. I was calm and ready, but my mindset was a little blurry at that moment. That’s probably the only thing that affected my butterfly, not being able to refocus completely.”
The 5-foot-5 Decker said the 100 fly has been her specialty event “ever since I was 10, when Carolyn threw me in it.”
“Everyone thinks it’s so hard,’ Decker said, “but you put a lot of work into it and it’s a lot of technical stuff. I like the challenge. I wanted to break a minute in the 100 fly this year, which I did at districts.”
Decker’s runner-up time at districts was 59.23 seconds. She placed 23rd in the 100 fly at last year’s state meet, in 1:00.82. Last Thursday she placed 19th in 1:00.12 as 18 swimmers finished in under one minute.
“I was kind of disappointed, only because I knew what I did wrong,” Decker said. “Coming off my third turn, I didn’t pick it up enough and didn’t finish hard enough. It’s that feeling of, ‘OK, we need to go’ and not going as fast as you want to. That kind of goes along with warming down and refocusing.”
Decker is the second swimmer in her family to compete at the state meet. Her brother, Nathan, who graduated from Eastwood in 2012, qualified in the 500 freestyle and finished 13th.
“She has two older brothers,” Strunk said, “and you can tell there is a lot of competition there.”
Decker’s Eastwood teammates this season included senior Rachel Harper, junior Hannah Keiser, sophomores Natalie Reidling and Bethany Nabors, and freshman Regan McAnally. Decker has swum with the Bowling Green Swim Club, a year-round youth program, since age 7. Eastwood trains at the BGSU Recreation Center.