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Next stop: the record books
￼Vikings swimmer Stephanie Longmate heading to state.
POULSBO — She’s only slightly superstitious.
But superstition is the way of sports, especially when breaking a school record or two and racing to a state-qualifying time early in the season is at stake.
In just four meets and within the first month of the swimming season, North Kitsap Vikings senior Stephanie Longmate, 17, has accomplished both.
On Oct. 1 Longmate broke the 100-yard butterfly school record set in 2002 by Jacklene Salwei, as she swam it in 1 minute 4.05 seconds. A few meets earlier on Sept. 25, Longmate swam personal records and state-qualifying times in the 200- and 500-yard freestyles, in 2:01.96, and 5:22.41, respectively. She also swims a leg of the 400-free relay, which on Sept. 25, eclipsed the old school record by two seconds.
Her arsenal, or superstition, in addition to being an incredibly motivated, hard working and strong swimmer who’s got standout technique, is the size of her suit.
“I like really big suits,” said Longmate. “Whenever I wear a small suit I feel like I mess up, so I always wear huge suits. Coaches get mad at me for it, but it’s just a mental thing. I feel like I swim better. I like comfort.”
Oh, and actually thinking about the race and what she’d like to accomplish helped her set the 100-fly standard. Longmate said she’s usually a “scatter brain” before she swims and doesn’t pay as much attention to her races as she should.
“I just had to think about swimming this time,” she said, of the 100-fly, before humbly adding, “if I always thought about it I’d probably be doing really good.”
It’s not really the suit that allowed Longmate to swim in record-setting style. It’s her dedication to the sport, determination to improve and physical strength.
Vikings’ head coach Greg Braun describes Longmate as a “work horse,” with a lot of stamina and focus. He said she works at a really high level and will do anything he asks of her.
But hard work and dedication are gross understatements.
Longmate began swimming at 9 years old. She hit the waters with the Bainbridge Island swim team for two years and then began to practice with the Olympic Aquatic Club. She still swims with the club, swims for North and practices year-round.
Throughout the summer Longmate swims four hours, five days a week and hits the pool for two hours on Saturdays. During the fall/winter she practices twice a day — two hours with the Vikings and then two hours with the Aquatic Club. She doesn’t return home in the evenings until after 8:30 p.m., and then she grabs some dinner and turns her focus to school work.
“I’m always really tired,” she said. “It’s hard to do homework and swim.”
But she manages to swing it all, as a very shy Longmate said she’s studious at school. The days before a meet, Longmate skips club practice so she can go to bed at 8 p.m.
It might seem like a crazy amount of time and commitment, but just ask her why she does it and it all makes sense.
“The water feels wonderful. It’s like taking a bath every day, but getting to play in your bathtub. It’s really, really relaxing,” she said, a day-dreamy smile forming on her face. “I feel weightless and I get so happy when I get a better time. It’s a fun workout because you don’t know you’re sweating, but you are.”
It was Longmate’s goal to break the 100-fly record. She’d also like to be among the top 16 at state in both the 200- and 500-free.
Braun’s noted a change in her focus, which should bode well in accomplishing her ambitions. He said in the past he’d ask her what a state-qualifying time was, and she didn’t know. He’d ask what her goal was, and she’d say, “I don’t know, just faster.” So he’d ask her what faster meant and she didn’t have a good sense of that.
But this year, she knows.
“This year she said, ‘I want to go to state,’ and she knew the state standard, ‘I want to break the record,’ and she knew the time,” Braun said. “That’s made her even stronger and taken her focus up in more specific detail.”
Another goal on Longmate’s horizon is swimming Division I collegiate times. She’s already met Division II and III times. She’d like to swim in college, maybe for Washington State University, Whitman or Pacific Lutheran University. She hasn’t applied yet, but will do so in January or after state, Nov. 14-15.
“I really want to swim in college so all my years of swimming actually mean something,” she said. “It would be sad to quit after this year.”
The Vikings last home meet of the season is Thursday against Port Townsend. It starts at 3 p.m. at the North Kitsap Community Pool.