In short, Botek long on talent

McDonogh swimmer Anne-Marie Botek has been dominant in sprint events.


Anne-Marie Botek doesn't have much left to prove in her senior year as a high school swimmer.

After winning four events to lead McDonogh to the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland title last winter, Botek went on to cap the season with the fastest 100-yard butterfly time in the nation by a prep school swimmer.

Her time of 54.60 seconds set a meet record at the 105th Eastern Prep School Championships as well as a La Salle University pool record. That time ranked No. 2 among all high school swimmers nationwide, according to the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association.

In her first three years at McDonogh, Botek earned All-America status 12 times - in nine individual events and three relays. She holds four individual school records - the 50-yard freestyle, 100 freestyle, 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly - and had a hand in three relay records.

Shorter distances have been her forte since the Ellicott City resident began swimming year-round for the Columbia Clippers at age 7.

Scott Ward, who coaches Botek at McDonogh and on the Eagles club team, said the power she needs for sprinting comes naturally. To describe her, he borrows a term from Auburn swim coach David Marsh: "Spider-Man strength."

"She's strong from her fingertips to her core, to her legs to her feet. She's very explosive," Ward said.

Botek, who is headed to defending NCAA champion Georgia on scholarship, certainly wants to improve as a senior, but she doesn't reel off her goals in the order one might expect of an 11-time IAAM champ.

"I just really want to focus on having fun. I want to be a good leader for my team ... and I want us to win," said Botek, who has already qualified for the Olympic trials in the 50-meter freestyle and the 100-meter butterfly.

Many swimmers of Botek's caliber forgo high school competition to focus on preparing for national and international meets. Botek, however, thrives on the team dynamic and enjoys the atmosphere of high school swim meets more than the big national meets.

"It's so much different, because when you swim for high school, you have people cheering their brains out, and when you swim for club, it's nice, but it's more of an individual thing. When people are cheering for you, it's so much fun to swim fast. I just love being on the team."

McDonogh teammate Kelly Peloquin said Botek's devotion to the team made her an easy choice for one of the Eagles' captains.

"Everyone knew she was going to be captain because she's an incredible motivator," Peloquin said. "Whoever is in the pool, she's cheering for them. She goes out of her way to make friends and to get to know everyone.

"Since we were little, she'd make me these inspirational calendars or cards. She'd go online and get quotes, and since we both like marine animals, she'd put manatees or dolphins on them."

This winter, Botek used a similar motivational tool for the whole Eagles team, which is practicing at a nearby outdoor pool covered by a dome while a new natatorium is built on their Owings Mills campus. She came up with "Secret Psychs," inspirational good-luck notes for each swimmer before meets.

"My old swim team used to do Secret Santas," Botek said, "and I was trying to figure a way, because we're in the bubble and it's hard to get people pumped up and excited, to promote team unity. The other team captains and I talked about it and now we give them a little gift before each meet."

Despite all of her titles and All-America honors, Botek counts as the highlight of her McDonogh career earning last winter's Eagles Award, voted on by the team.

"It felt really good, because it's not really for achievement, it's for sportsmanship and commitment and supporting the team. I feel like to be voted to get that by your peers is one of the highest honors you can have."

That kind of support is something that's been lacking for Botek at the big meets, simply because she's often the only Eagles club swimmer there.

"Since I like the team atmosphere so much, it's very difficult to just be by myself and be with my own thoughts, so I have to make sure I don't get too nervous," Botek said.

Still, she finished seventh in the 50-meter freestyle at the World Trials in Indianapolis last spring and was ninth in the same event at the USA Swimming summer nationals in Irvine, Calif., in August.

The key to swimming faster at this point in her career, Botek said, is being mentally strong and perfecting her technique. She works on the mental side of the game by reading swimming psychology books and she has talked to a sports psychologist. Ward also has her keeping a diary of positive practice experiences.

"Since I tend to be a pessimistic sort of person about my practices, he had me pick one thing, or some days he would point out something positive. Then, if I had any doubts during a big meet I could go back and look through it."

She hopes to overcome the big-meet nervousness when she gets to college. At Georgia, she can combine her love for the team with tougher competition for herself.

Ward said Botek has the talent and the work ethic to continue to improve if she keeps working on the technical and mental aspects of the sport.

"It's great when your best athletes are your hardest workers ... " Ward said. "Anne-Marie has a strong commitment and passion to make her team better and herself better."

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