Excited to compete at the upcoming state swimming meet, Andover freshman Bella Smits feels more thrilled to share the experience with teammates.
Smits dominated last week’s Class 2A, Section 7 meet. She set section and pool records with victories in the 50-yard freestyle (23.94 seconds) and 100 backstroke (56.92). Smits also swam legs of two victorious relays. The 200 medley relay team of Smits, Camille Madsen, Christina Spanier and Ciarah Thoreson, posted a section record time of 1:51.31. The 400 freestyle relay team of Spanier, Kaylie Bednarczyk, Thoreson and Smits also won.
The state meet will be Nov. 18-20 at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.
Smits spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about her love of swimming, what went so right at the section meet and her competitive streak.
Q: You have been swimming since age 4. Why has swimming clicked for you?
A: I tried other sports when I was younger, but I always went right back to swimming because I loved it so much more. Every time I get in the water, I’m so happy. It’s the happiest part of every single day.
Q: Your team set out to have a competitive season but also to build bonds with each other. I’m told you succeed on both counts. What was it like to be part of that?
A: I was really scared to join the high school team because I didn’t think anyone would really like me. But once I started talking to all the girls, I realized how nice they were. They all welcomed me and I love every single one of them.
Q: You got things started for Andover at the section meet, swimming the first leg of the first relay. What sort of tone did you hope to set?
A: I was really nervous for this meet. But every time before we go up to the blocks, our relay group goes in a little huddle and we pump each other up. Christina Spanier, one of our captains, does most of the talking. She is the most inspirational girl I’ve ever met. From there I went into the race feeling good and feeling like all of our hard work would pay off.
Q: By the time you get to the 400 relay at the end of the meet you were 3-for-3. Had your nerves been replaced by confidence?
A: We were all getting really pumped up because we really, really wanted to win that last relay. We really wanted to get to state. And we also wanted to beat our team record. Watching the race, I was telling myself, ‘You can do this.’
Q: Your coach, Marcia Ford, and your mother say you don’t like the spotlight. Was playing a big role in getting two relay teams to state more satisfying than winning two individual events?
A: Yes. I want everyone to be happy with how they swam. I want everyone to get attention. So I love it when relays go to state because it’s more fun and easier to get pumped up for your race.
Q: Coach Ford said you weren’t even full tapered for the section meet?
A: Yeah we decided I would taper for state. I only had a three-day taper so I wasn’t expecting to go that fast. My club team and I, we’ve never really figured out what taper I need whether long or short. So I’m hoping it holds up for state.
Q: I’m told that as unassuming as you are, you are a competitive person. Is that fair?
A: Yeah, I keep it in my head, though. I don’t want to show anyone.
David La Vaque