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Erika Chick led the girls 200-yard medley relay at the Shawnee Meet at Wittenberg on Sunday, Jan. 24.

Two local swimmers aim for state

by Kelsey Cundiff

Imagine a place where the air is hot and humid and the water is ice cold. The smell of chlorine fills the air along with the sounds of splashing water, buzzers, bells and sometimes even guns echoing through the natatorium. Hundreds of people, from swimmers, coaches, timers, officials and spectators, line the pool deck and bleachers. This describes a typical swim meet, and for Yellow Springs High School swimmers Elizabeth Malone and Erika Chick, this is a normal environment in which to spend almost every weekend of the winter.

What makes Malone and Chick stand out among the rest is the level of performance they have already reached at a young age, as well as their choice to remain in a small school district. In small districts it is sometimes hard to find outstanding athletes, who tend to move to larger districts where they believe they will be noticed by college scouts and have greater competition. That does not hold true, though, for Malone and Chick. Both sophomores, they have had great success so far in their careers, and they are only just beginning.

Born in Springfield, Malone has been swimming most of her life, starting lessons at age 3 and joining the Springfield YMCA swim team at age 7. Malone grew up around swimming. Her two older sisters, Jen and Marjorie Malone, also swam through high school, and Jen went on to swim in college. Malone followed in their footsteps, swimming butterfly, and wants to continue swimming in college. She is already looking around at a few, such as Michigan State University and Kenyon. Malone moved to Yellow Springs the summer before her sixth-grade year and she likes smaller schools compared to bigger ones. She says that “it doesn’t really matter what size school you go to, it’s more about your club team” in regards to getting noticed by colleges, and Malone is definitely getting noticed.

Last year she qualified to compete in the YMCA Short Course Nationals, swimming the 100-yard and 200-yard butterfly and individual medley events in Ft. Lauderdale. She just recently competed in the 2009 Speedo Short Course Jr. Nationals held at Ohio State University, where her Springfield YMCA 400-yard medley relay team finished 25th out of 44 teams, with Malone swimming her butterfly portion in 59.20. And she hopes to add on to this already impressive resumé of competitions by qualifying for another national meet in California this summer.

“I think about the long hours in the pool that I have dedicated to swimming and all the time my mom has spent driving me and all the money and costs,” she said, and she wants to make it all worth it by succeeding in the water.

Erika Chick is also no stranger to long hours in the pool. Born in Kettering, Chick began swim lessons at a young age and joined the local youth team, Seadogs, when she was 5 and then joined her club team, Dayton Raiders, at age 6. Unlike Malone, Chick did not have any older siblings to influence her, but she has similar goals to swim in college and also doesn’t mind the smaller school district. She came to Yellow Springs at the age of 7.

“I always went to Yellow Springs schools, and I like Yellow Springs schools and I’ve just stayed with it,” Chick said.

Chick, who competes mostly in the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle events, hopes to win state either this year or the next and finds motivation in all the rewards that swimming brings. A recent press release from the 27th Annual Southwest Ohio High School Swimming and Diving Classic named Chick as one of about 15 swimmers to watch out of nearly 3,000 swimmers competing at the meet.

Like most endeavors, getting to the level that Malone and Chick have reached takes dedication and a raw love for the sport. Both girls spend hours every day in the pool training for their events. Swim meets can last for entire weekends, including the sometimes 13-hour events and days of travel on either end. They wake up at hours most teenagers would never fathom to get to the meet site in time for warm-ups. Then they spend the rest of their day waiting for their events. All of the hours they have spent training comes down to a few minutes in the water.

According to YSHS swimming coach Naomi Witt, the determination it takes to succeed is rare.

“The fierce level of dedication it takes to want to get up at 5 a.m. in the morning for practices — but also the drain on your body that it takes to swim 8,000 yards a day — it really is a commitment to saying ‘I’m not going to do anything else in my life but swimming,’” Witt explained. “That dedication is making them as good as they are, and they really do love it.”

Both Malone and Chick made it to the Division II state finals last year as freshmen representing YSHS and held their own among some of the state’s best. Malone placed fifth in the 100-yard butterfly and 11th in the 200 IM. Chick finished fourth in the 200-yard free and seventh in the 500-yard free. But they haven’t let that success go to their heads. In a recent meet, according to Witt, an official complimented Malone and Chick on being polite and respectful and not letting themselves become over-confident.

It cannot be said what the future holds for these two young swimmers, but their impressive swimming careers will not be ending anytime soon.

* The writer is a junior at Yellow Springs High School who is interning at the News.

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