Saige Starford, a senior at Strawberry Crest High School, is this week's Athlete of the Week.
Saige Starford, a senior at Strawberry Crest High School, broke two school swimming records on October 27 at the 4A District 7 Championships with 24.29 in the 50 Freestyle and 53.41 in the 100 Freestyle. At the November 3 4A Region 3 Championships she did it again swimming 24.07 in the 50 Freestyle and 53.03 in the 100 Freestyle. She is headed to the State Championships this weekend.
How long have you been swimming?
I have been swimming since I was a baby, starting with Daddy and Me swim lessons when I was less than 2 years old. I have been swimming competitively on my club team, Blue Wave Swimming, for about 9 years now.
What’s your favorite thing about swimming?
My favorite thing about swimming is the ability to release everything that is worrying me. I have always used swim practice as a therapy session. Everything that has been affecting me, I leave in the pool.
Another thing I love about swimming is the relationships I have formed. I have learned a lot through all my coaches and teammates, and I wouldn’t be where I am without them.
What’s your favorite thing about your coaches at SCHS?
My coaches at SCHS have been super supportive of me. They are the ones cheering me on at the side of the pool and outside of swimming. When I finished my races at Districts and Regionals, I looked to the side of the pool, and my coaches were jumping up and down with joy for me.
What’s your favorite swimming technique?
My favorite freestyle stroke swimming technique is kind-of a hybrid between straight-arm and a bent arm. It helps with sprinting and allowing my body to keep a hand-hip connection to increase my rotation and strength.
How did you prepare physically and mentally for your most challenging race?
Physically, I prepared throughout my entire season. Mentally, I stay relaxed and happy. When it comes to the actual race, I know that I have put in the work. At my championship meet, there is no use worrying. I put faith in my training, my coach, myself, and God, and that’s all I need to do. To stay relaxed and loose, I listen to my favorite pump-up songs and dance until the moment I hear “Take your mark.”
Who’s your favorite professional swimmer?
My favorite professional swimmer is Katie Ledecky. I’ve always looked up to her resilience and hard work. I got to meet her this past Spring, and on top of her being an amazing swimmer, she is incredibly humble and kind. I look up to her not only as a swimmer but as a person as well.
How many hours a week would you say that you spend on swimming?
During the school year, I spend about 12-15 hours swimming. During the summer and school breaks, I spend around 18-20 hours swimming.
Is there a certain type of swimming contest that you prefer?
I prefer any competition where I have my friends and my family by my side. I could not imagine going to a meet by myself. I am proud that my sister Jillian is on the team with me, she is extremely supportive of me. My friends are also always there to support me and help lift my spirits. I release my nerves before a challenging race by dancing with my friends and cheering them on during their races. Any competition with my teammates is my favorite.
What’s your other hobbies outside of swimming?
Outside of swimming, I spend time studying for school. I volunteer with Church every week. I love spending time with my friends, family, and my dog, Choco. Though, to be completely honest, I don’t have much time outside of swim for other hobbies.
If you could train a future swimmer, what would the first thing you teach be?
The first thing I would teach a future swimmer is to keep a positive mindset. The hardest part about swimming is the mental strength that comes with it. It’s not easy to push through a hard set at practice or the end of a race when your body is screaming at you to stop. If you don’t have the confidence and grit to push through when times get tough, then you’ll never reach your full potential.