High School Sports

The records remain posted on the wall. And this Capital swimmer aims to break them

Capital High School junior Camden Martin prepares for the Class 3A state swimming and diving championships at practice on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018 at The Evergreen State College in Olympia.
Capital High School junior Camden Martin prepares for the Class 3A state swimming and diving championships at practice on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018 at The Evergreen State College in Olympia. sbloom@theolympian.com

The numbers are there any time Camden Martin wants to remind herself of her goals.

Capital High School’s swim records are posted on bright goldenrod paper on the wall of The Evergreen State College’s pool, at the end where the Cougars enter and leave at every practice.

Back in 1996-97, Misty Westphal, who went on to become an NAIA All-American at Evergreen, swam the 500-yard freestyle in 5 minutes, 5.38 seconds.

Two years later, Shea Fitzgerald, who went on to compete in the U.S. Olympic trials, clocked a 56.86 seconds in the 50-yard backstroke.

In the world of swimming, with rapid advancements in techniques and equipment bringing times down at a constant rate, those two Capital records have stood comparatively forever.

Martin, a junior, wants to break them both.

She has a long way to go in time, but as she leads the Cougars into this weekend’s Class 3A state swimming and diving championships at the King County Aquatics Center in Federal Way, coach Burke Anderson wouldn’t bet against her.

“She’s got a really clean shot at the 500 free record with the improvement she’s been showing,” Anderson said.

Martin is seeded seventh in the event entering Friday’s preliminaries, with a time of 5:15.05, after dropping more than 20 seconds since last season.

On the other hand, her speedy mark in the 100 back, 58.44, good for a No. 5 seed at the state meet, caught her coach by surprise.

“I did not see that coming,” he said. “That’s the second-fastest mark of any girl I’ve ever coached.”

Interestingly, it’s not the difference in the strokes that makes Martin’s choice of events remarkable — she’ll also swim the backstroke on Capital’s 200 medley relay team at state, as well as a leg of the 400 free relay — but the difference in distance.

“Freestyle and back are both what coaches call ‘long axis’ strokes,” Anderson said. “The mechanics are similar. It’s not uncommon to see a girl excel in both free and back. What’s uncommon about her is she does well in a short distance and also in a 500. You don’t typically see that.”

Martin agrees that switching strokes doesn’t cause difficulty, but says that choosing a practice regime to allow her to excel in both can be a quandary.

“For the 500 you have to do distance sets, and the back requires sprints,” she said.

Both Martin — who took up swimming at age 6 in large part because her dad, Tom, was a swimmer and played water polo in college at California Maritime Academy — and her coach agree on what makes her able to take on a variety of challenges.

“I’m really aggressive and I’m really determined,” she said. “My technique isn’t perfect but I race really hard. I’m a competitive person. I always want to beat the person next to me.”

“She’s really fun to watch because she never backs down,” Anderson said. “I didn’t realize how driven she was and how focused she could be until this year.”

Martin believes the flaws in her technique leave plenty of room for improvement as she stalks Westphal’s and Fitzgerald’s decades-old school records.

“I need to do more dry land training to build up my endurance. I also need to work on my catch and watch videos of myself to improve the way I flow through the water,” she said.

Martin’s dad retired from the Coast Guard earlier this year. She wants to swim for one of the service academies during college and move on to a full career in the military as either a civil engineer or genetic engineer.

Anderson sees her leadership skills as a tight-knit group of Cougars prepares to join Martin this weekend.

Alexa Nooney will compete in the 100 fly (seed time of 1:01.87), and 100 back (1:00.98), while sophomore Dottie Coleman will swim the 100 fly (1:02.96). Katherine Lane will join Martin, Nooney and Coleman on the two relay teams.

“(Camden) is more of a leader this season, more willing to put herself out there. She’s learned to set the example. The other kids follow her,” Anderson said. “We’re all contributing, it’s not all just about (Camden), but the other girls appreciate that she’s on the team.”

Martin, who has competed with her Evergreen Swim Club team at USA Swimming’s Senior Sectionals, appreciates the atmosphere of a big high school meet.

“State’s fun. When you get there you can tell everyone’s ready to race, really driven. It’s really competitive so it’s a really good atmosphere,” she said. “You really feel like you’re on a team when you swim high school. When you’re at state, you know you’re swimming for your school instead of just doing well for yourself.”