For most of the season, Blaine junior Jaren Walker’s swimming exploits fly under the radar of the larger high school athletic community.
Since Blaine high school does not have a girls’ swim team, Walker swims competitively with Lynden high school’s team.
She said it is sometimes difficult to get swim time since Lynden’s coaches tend to focus on letting Lynden’s swimmers race for team points, something Walker’s races do not count toward.
However, the postseason is where Walker gets her chance to shine because swimmers are considered individually, in addition to as part of a team.
That’s one of the reasons Walker said she has made it to 2A district competition for three years straight, including this year.
“Because I’m the only [Blaine] swimmer, I feel like I have something to prove,” she explained. “It was a go big or go home kind of thing.”
And go big she has. For the 2010 postseason, Walker has qualified for district competition in three separate events. Because of conference rules, she can only compete in two: the 200-yard freestyle and the 100-yard backstroke. The competition will take place in Anacortes on Friday, November 5.
With three qualifying times this season, Walker said she has seen the most growth in herself this year compared to the other five she has been swimming competitively. In addition to her improvement from previous years, she said actually getting up every morning to train has been nothing short of a miracle.
“Motivating myself to drive into Bellingham at 4:30 in the morning was sort of a crowning achievement for me this season,” Walker remarked with a laugh.
Swimming has been a passion of Walker’s since she started in middle school in the small town of Indian Springs, Nevada, about 50 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Going to school there, she said her sports choices were pretty much limited to swimming and baseball, and she didn’t much care for the latter.
Walker’s family moved to Blaine in 2005 after her older brother started school in Seattle. She started competing alongside Lynden’s swimmers in 2007 and has enjoyed every minute of it since then.
While she has also dabbled in other sports, volleyball and track and field in high school, Walker said her focus has always been swimming. The start of each race reminds her why she comes back to the pool time and time again.
“I love the moment right before the start gun goes off and you dive in and it’s really quiet,” Walker said, “and then the adrenaline kicks in.”
Walker explained competition is a huge part of her life, but she still finds time to be a normal teenager who enjoys going to concerts and hanging out with he friends. She said she’s not against the idea of swimming in college and hopes to major in environmental science or biology at the University of Portland.
For now, though, thoughts of college are a little more than a year away. Walker has her sights set on district competition this Friday. She has many thanks for the people who helped her get there, including Vivian Bleecker, her English teacher, who Walker said has been supportive her entire high school swimming career.
2A district competition will start at 10 a.m. on Friday, November 5, at Fidalgo Pool in Anacortes. At districts, Walker plans to make a splash that will be heard throughout the county.