Beneath The Surface

With no swim team at Westminster, Lyndsey Smith strives for recognition.

December 07, 2005|By MELISSA HOPPERT | MELISSA HOPPERT,SUN REPORTER

Westminster senior Lyndsey Smith has accomplished big things. The problem is, few at her school know about them.

"People look at me and ask, `You swim?' But I am used to it by now," said Smith, who has been swimming since she was 8. "In Carroll County, there are no swim teams [in high school], so it's kind of frustrating when you see your friends being able to compete for your school. I'm an athlete, but I don't have that opportunity."

Next year, she will get that chance at Penn State. Smith, who was also being recruited by North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Arizona State, recently signed a letter of intent to swim for the 12th-ranked Nittany Lions, last year's Big Ten champions.

And in addition to representing her school, Smith also hopes to swim for her country.

When she was 15, Smith qualified for the 2004 Olympic trials in Long Beach, Calif., in both the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke, but she opted to swim in only the 100.

In order to make the Olympic team, swimmers have to place in the top two of each event. Smith, who qualified with a time of 1 minute, 11.19 seconds, came in 50th out of 53 swimmers with a time of 1:14.39.

"That was the low point of the whole experience. It wasn't as close as I wanted it to be," Smith said. "It's always been my dream to swim for the red, white and blue. It was just an experience to learn from for 2008."

Smith already has qualified in the 100-meter breaststroke for the 2008 Olympic trials, scheduled for June 30-July 7 in Omaha, Neb. The 100 breaststroke qualifying time is 1 minute, 12.59 seconds; Smith swam a time of 1:12.22 at the Grand Prix meet in Indianapolis in June. She is also trying to qualify for the 200 breaststroke, 200 individual medley and 400 IM.

Jeff Hiestand, Smith's coach with the Green Terror Aquatic Club, said she still has a long way to go, however, before making the Olympic team.

"Everything needs to improve, and that's going to be for everyone," he said. "The Americans are starting to be a lot stronger in that event [American Jessica Hardy broke the world record in the 100 breaststroke in July with a time of 1:06.20], and just like everything else, competition is going to create faster swimming."

Smith, who grew up in Ohio, joined the Green Terror in 1996, when her father, Mark Smith, who was an athletic trainer with the Cleveland Browns, moved with the team to Baltimore.

"Ever since Lyndsey has been working with us, she's just moved through the water a little bit easier. That is something that can be taught or learned, but it's just natural with Lyndsey," said Hiestand, who is in his 11th year with the club and fifth as head coach.

Smith practices six days a week in an effort to shave off seconds from her time.

Her alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m., and she's in the pool by 5. At 6:30, practice ends, and it's time to get ready for school, which she goes to straight from McDaniel College, where the Green Terror practices.

"I throw my hair up, throw on some halfway-decent clothes and just go to school because by then I'm tired, I'm wet, I smell like chlorine," she said. "My friends all walk in and they start sniffing the air and they'll say, `You had swim practice today, didn't you?' It's in my pores now."

After school, she rushes home to do homework, grab a bite to eat and she's back in the pool by 5 p.m. She follows this routine four times a week and also practices for three hours on both Saturday and Sunday.

"Some days it's like, `Oh my God, why am I here?' But most days it's just the love of the water [that draws me in]. When I'm out of it for a couple of days, I itch to get back in. I don't feel like I've completed a day without getting in."

Judging by all of the colleges that were interested in Smith, her hard work is not going unnoticed.

The decision to go to Penn State, she said, was solidified during her recruiting visit, which was on the same weekend as the football team's big home game against Ohio State.

"I just fell in love with Penn State, the people up there, the atmosphere, it's just an exciting place to be," said Smith, who hopes to major in graphic design. "My recruiting visit was the icing on the cake. I spent the whole week with the swim team and saw what they did, and I got to sit in on a class to see what it was like to be on campus. I told my mom that night when we were driving home, `I'm going here. This is where I want to go.' "

With her college choice out of the way, Smith can focus on her swimming. And even though her accomplishments have gone mostly unnoticed at her high school, recognition is something Smith may not have to worry about come 2008.

"Amanda Beard gets swimming out in the public, and so does Mike Phelps, and I admire them both for that," she said. "My teammates are all extremely tough and work extremely hard. Kids all over the country do it just for the love of the sport, and we honestly don't get enough recognition."

melissa.hoppert@baltsun.com

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