At 14, Clara Heffernan already is in the high school swimming spotlight.
And she's only a freshman.
In Olympia's first meet of the season last Thursday, Heffernan qualified for the state meet in two events - the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle - and nearly qualified in a third (100 freestyle) against Shelton on Monday. The Class 4A state meet is set for Nov. 8-10 at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.
She's two-hundredths of a second away from the 100 freestyle state qualifying time (56 seconds).
But Heffernan wasn't disappointed she didn't get that third qualifying time.
"I'll get 'em next time," Heffernan said.
She'll try to go lower today, when the Bears travel to Stadium for their third dual meet of the season.
"It's very exciting," Heffernan said about qualifying for state. "I can't wait to go to state and show what I can do. I've done swimming all my life, but I want to see how fast I can get. I want my time to drop."
Heffernan's state qualifying times of 1:58.20 (200 free) and 5:24.55 (500 free) were close to her personal bests on a day that had many highlights for Olympia. More than 15 swimmers reached personal best times in the first meet for first-year Bears coach Mel Smith.
But of everyone, he's the least bit surprised by the early success of his swimmers.
"It's the workout they've been doing," Smith said. "If you build that kind of base, you will see improvements and build strong performances. There are six or seven upperclassman who had better times then they had last year, and that's exciting to see."
Smith, who spent 18 years coaching high school swimming in Illinois before moving to Washington in June 2005, has 46 swimmers on the team. It's the most he's ever had on a high school team.
And the chance to coach a swimmer such as Heffernan doesn't come around often. Fortunately for the Bears, she'll be around for another three years.
"It will be thrilling," Smith said. "It's always great to have one swimmer as good as Clara."
n WINS KEEP COMING FOR CAPITAL TENNIS: You can't blame Capital tennis coach Joe Monroe for his excitement from his team's 3-2 win over North Thurston last Friday. But now, the Cougars have done one better.
After a long drought against Olympia, the Cougars beat their crosstown rival 4-1 on Tuesday and look to be the team to beat in the Western Cascade Conference.
"They were always second, and we were always third," Monroe said of when Olympia and Capital played in the Narrows League. "We could never quite catch up. Now, to come from our league and beat them is nice."
The win over the Bears was similar to the Cougars' win over the Rams. Capital's third doubles team, Suvir Bharil and Josh Farrar, was the deciding factor in both wins, and both matches were three-setters.
Capital might be in the driver's seat for a league title as the team is undefeated (4-0) and already has beaten a talented North Thurston squad.
Capital lost two matches last season - both to North Thurston, which had an undefeated season on its way to the WCC title.
"It's an exciting thing," Monroe said. "We feel really good."
n TUMWATER SOCCER PLAYER RELEASED FROM HOSPITAL: T-Birds senior Carly McCarthy was released from Providence St. Peter Hospital late Tuesday after falling hard on her back during the first half of Tumwater's 5-0 win over Elma on Tuesday.
The injury occurred when McCarthy collided with an Elma player as the two were going up for a header. The midfielder landed hard on her tailbone, Tumwater co-head coach Stephanie Hannukaine said.
"The pain sprouted to the rest of her back," Hannukaine said.
McCarthy wasn't at school Wednesday. X-rays taken found no broken bones, Hannukaine said.
n LOCAL CROSS COUNTRY TEAMS AT FORT STEILACOOM INVITE: Nine South Sound area teams will compete at the 10th annual Fort Steilacoom Cross Country Invitational Saturday morning at Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood. Capital, Centralia, Chehalis, Northwest Christian, Olympia, Steilacoom, Timberline Tumwater and Yelm are scheduled to attend the 50-team event. The first race begins at 10:15 a.m.
n OF NOTE: The Olympian will begin honoring the best high school performances starting Sept. 20 with the Athletes of the Week. Athletes may be nominated by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 360-754-5432. Athletes of the Week will appear each Thursday.
Meg Wochnick covers high school sports for The Olympian. She can be reached at 360-754-5473 or email@example.com.