Freshman phenom makes major splash, state title could be in future…

James Nosek | Staff Writer

Photo by Megan McCormack

Four months into her high school swimming career, freshman Zoe Thatcher has already broken two school records, is first place in five different events in the GMC and has a great chance of winning the state title this year, according to Coach Mark Sullivan.

This season, Thatcher is in first place in the GMC in five different events including 100-yard, 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle, 200-yard individual medley, as well as the 100-yard backstroke.

At the Southwest Ohio Swimming and Diving Classic in January, Thatcher won three events, including setting school records in the 500-yard and the 1650-yard freestyle.

The tournament is one of the biggest high school regular season swimming tournaments in the nation, with around 100 schools participating, according to Thatcher.

Sullivan said that Thatcher is having a lot of success this year and that she reminds him of another successful freshman swimmer in Mason, 2010 graduate Danielle Jansen, who currently holds eight of the school records. Thatcher’s potential is really unlimited in the possibility of winning the state championship, according to Sullivan.

“[Thatcher] has a good likelihood of possibly winning [the state championship] this year, but I would say she [is very similar] to Jansen,” Sullivan said. “Jansen won her first state championship her sophomore year.”

Like Sullivan, junior Morgan Emter, one of Thatcher’s teammates, said she is also confident in Thatcher and her chances to win state.

“[Thatcher] is an amazing swimmer,” Emter said. “She will definitely make it to state, and [she] might even win.”

Thatcher said she has been having fun this year and she looks forward to her future with the team.

“This year has been so exciting [to be successful on varsity],” Thatcher said. “[The current success] makes me so [thrilled] for the next few years.”

Thatcher said that competitive swimming has been in her life since she was eight years old. She said she got into swimming by just having fun in the summer and being in the water. But Thatcher said she considers it odd that she ever did join her first swim team, because of the “weird” athletic backgrounds of her parents.

“My mom [is] a runner and she hates being wet,” Thatcher said. “[And] my dad was on the debate team, but [he] taught me how to swim.”

Starting competitive swimming at such a young age is an advantage for her, Thatcher said; she said it has helped her become the successful swimmer she is now.

“[Starting swimming at such a young age] helped [me] a lot because that’s where you learn all the [swimming] technique and [different strokes],” Thatcher said. “People tell me I have a good stroke and it’s mainly because I learned how to swim the right way when I [was young].”

Sullivan said Thatcher has improved tremendously since starting swimming.

“[Thatcher] has been swimming and training for a while,” Sullivan said. “She didn’t start out to be a very good swimmer at her early age, but within the last two or three years or so she has really improved greatly.”

Thatcher said that on the days when she under-performs, there are other key swimmers on the team to help pick her up.

“I think it’s okay if I have a bad race because [other varsity members on our team that step up],” Thatcher said. “[But] I try in all my power not to have those [disappointing] races.”

Three swimmers in particular, Thatcher said, are the other leaders on the team.

“Emter, who specializes in the breast stroke, senior Katie Heywood, who swims the butterfly, and senior Betsy Stemple, who is one of the best freestyle swimmers on the team, [are all other team leaders],” Thatcher said. “[They] are important in every meet.”

Even though Thatcher is a freshman, she said that she is one of the key leaders on the team.

“A lot of people look up to me,” Thatcher said. “[Especially in] relays; [that’s why] I usually I’m [the last] in the relay.”

Thatcher said that her role on the team as freshman can be tough, and she sometimes runs into problems that where she needs help from her teammates because of her inexperience at the high school level.

“When I’m not sure of stuff [relating to swimming] or [I am struggling], my friends and [upperclassmen] are there to help me get through it,” Thatcher said.

The month of February is the heart of the tournament season. For Thatcher to win state, she would have to go through GMCs, sectionals, districts and finally the 24-person state tournament in each one of her events.

“[Thatcher] has four consecutive weekends of swimming the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyles,” Sullivan said. “[I told her], ‘Don’t look at the end; look [specifically] at each week.’”

Thatcher said her goal in February is definitely to win state.

“My goal for state is probably to win the 500 [-yard freestyle],” Thatcher said. “[The] 500[-yard] is my best shot [for winning a state title].”

The ultimate goal would be to win state all four years in high school, according to Thatcher, but winning as a freshman would be amazing.

“It would be really cool to win [a state title] every year, but it would be [even cooler] to win [one] as a freshman,” Thatcher said.