Tough decision pays off for Fleming

Balers junior Elizabeth Fleming has posted her fastest times of her swimming career. Photo by Ed Wong.

After the 2017 swimming season ended, Elizabeth Fleming had a tough decision to make. Fleming, a San Benito High junior, had just completed a fine sophomore season in which she excelled on both the basketball court and in the pool. Having swam for most of her life, Fleming knew her athletic potential in the pool was higher than on the court.

“It was a long, thoughtful decision,” she said. “I talked to the basketball coach, the swim coach and family and friends. It was a tough decision, but I’m glad I made it. At the end of the last swim season, I thought about what I wanted to accomplish this year (swimming-wise) for a long time.”

In the end, Fleming realized if she wanted to reach her swimming goals, she would have to drop one sport (she also plays on the volleyball team in the fall) and spend more time in the pool throughout the year. That’s exactly what Fleming did, and it’s turned out to be a great decision.

Fleming has already hit Central Coast Section Meet qualifying times in the 50-yard freestyle and three relay events: the 200 medley relay, 200 free and 400 free. Fleming will get another crack to lower her times when the Haybalers host Christopher in a Monterey Bay League dual meet on Friday. The highlight of Fleming’s career came in the second league meet of the season against Monterey on March 9, when she nailed a personal-record (PR) in her best event, the 50 free.

Fleming’s time of 25.07 seconds bettered her previous mark of 25.59, while also qualifying her for the Central Coast Section Championships. A year ago, Fleming missed out on the CCS qualifying mark by .03 seconds. This time, she wasn’t about to be denied.

“I went up on the (starting) blocks and told myself I could do this and I was going to get it,” she said. “As my club coach (Jud Shutts) says, ‘Turnover, turnover, turnover,’ which means rapid arm stroke. That’s what I kept thinking of when I was in the race.”

Since Fleming was competing in the San Benito High pool, she didn’t have the luxury of having her time immediately available to her after she touched the wall. But as Fleming looked over to her coaches and teammates, she knew she had done something significant.

“I heard everyone cheering and it registered to me that I got the CCS time I was looking for since last season,” she said. “Once I found out my time, it was better than I even expected. I couldn’t have been happier, because I’ve been working for this for a long time.”

Fleming has also been working on lowering her 100 free times, and she has posted times in the low to mid 56-second range. Fleming’s best last year was in the 58-second range, so she’s already made a dramatic improvement in that event.

“That’s my next goal—to qualify for CCS in the 100 free,” she said.

Fleming and her three relay teammates—sophomores Mary Haggins and Maya Villegas and freshman Jaya Waller—have had a terrific season together, having qualified for CCS in each of the relay events.

“Before the season started, we knew we wanted to make it to CCS in at least one of the events,” Fleming said. “When we qualified for one of the relays in the first meet, we were ecstatic. And when we qualified for the other two relays in the second meet, we were pumped up and screaming our heads off.”

The four swimmers are excited because they know the best is yet to come. All four swimmers are dedicated to the sport and should be even faster by the end of the season. By the start of next season, they could potentially be a top-10 contender in the CCS Finals. Fleming improved in the off-season with San Benito Aquatics.

During the summer, Fleming had 5:30 a.m. practices, where she worked on a variety of technical aspects to her form and technique. Fleming said Shutts had her work on the catch, press and push, which meant she would be able to pull more water, get faster and glide through the water more efficiently.

“It helped me with a faster turnover and kick to get stronger,” she said.

Fleming plans on hitting the 24-second range in the 50 free, and she feels more confident than ever that the extra work she put in the off-season is helping her now. The reigning MBL champion in the 50 free, Fleming is in the midst of a tremendous swim season—and she’s not done yet.

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