Before the swimming and diving season, Coon Rapids coach Sarah Valley conferred with standout Sam Starke about her best chances for state meet success.
Starke, a junior who made two consecutive trips to the Class 2A state meet in the 100- butterfly and 200-yard freestyle, decided to drop the latter for the 200 individual medley.
"When you have an athlete so versatile, you try to find the best event for her to make the top 16," Valley said.
Starke made the change work, winning both events at the Section 7 meet to qualify for the state meet Thursday through Saturday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.
"Everything she is as a competitor, you can't teach," Valley said. "That's what sets her apart."
Starke spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about making the successful switch and the support she receives from an older sibling.
Q This year you focused on the 200 individual medley vs. the 200 freestyle -- an event you swam twice at state. Why did you make the change?
A I decided to change because I swim the 200 IM in club for Great Wolf and I like it better. I really want to go to finals at state and the 200 IM seemed like an easier event to go to finals in.
Q You've been to state a couple of times. What do you enjoy about the experience? What are you looking forward to?
A I like seeing all my friends because I know a lot of people on other teams. Getting to race them is fun.
Q Do you have friends from Great Wolf who compete for other schools?
A Definitely. I know a few girls at Centennial and Mounds View. But I haven't looked to see what they did at their section meets.
Q Coach Valley said what you have as a competitor cannot be taught. Can you shed some light on what drives you?
A Well, my family really pushes me and my sister, Liz, was a swimmer. She just finished swimming last spring for Florida Atlantic. A lot of times I just want to try to make them proud and try to beat my sister.
Q Which events did she swim?
A Butterfly and backstroke.
Q You are pretty good at butterfly as well. Is that a direct result of your sister or did find that event on your own?
A It was a little of both.
Q Has she sent congratulations for your latest accomplishment?
A She was at the section meet, actually. She's been at most of my meets this year, making posters and cheering me on.
Q As you prepare for state, which of your two events do you think has the chance for the most success?
A I feel both can be successful. I'm going to focus on each event as I'm competing in them. If I can make it to finals in both that would be great but I really want to make it in at least one.
Q How will two years of experience at state help you this time around?
A This year it's going to be a lot easier because I know what's going to happen and I know how I'm going to feel. So I think it will be easier to focus on swimming.
David La Vaque • 612-673-7574