Records keep falling in Heinen's wakeSuperior sophomore now owns four individual records and part of two relay records
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
The record board at the Superior High School natatorium needs an update.
In the past two months, records that had stood for nearly two decades have been swept away, and more are likely to fall before the girls swimming and diving season ends.
Kaitlin Heinen, a sophomore at SHS, is responsible for the falling records.
“One thing you notice about Kaitlin in the offseason is that she’s very active, she’s always doing something,” said George Lehman, head coach of the Superior girls swimming and diving team.
“I think that’s typical of the elite swimmers. They’re driven and they’ve got goals that are, maybe structured by a coach a little, but mostly internal.”
Heinen is only in her second season with the Spartans, but she already holds school records in four individual events and two relays.
During her freshman season, Heinen set two individual school records and swam on two record-setting relay teams. She claimed the record in the 500 and 200 freestyle races and swam with teammates Grace Elonen, Kelsey Hansen and Tori Johnson for records in the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.
This year, Heinen has set multiple pool records and has taken over the top time in two new events.
“I broke two new individual records and I broke my own, so three all together,” Heinen said.
Her first new record of the 2012 season came at Duluth Denfeld on Sept. 20. She bested Leah Smith’s 1994 record in the 100 backstroke by almost a second with a time of 1:02.18.
Two weeks later, Heinen took down Ilee Smith’s 2003 record in the 100 butterfly. Then, on Thursday, she improved her own record in the 500 freestyle with a time of 5:18.99. Her previous best time of 5:19.30 earned her a trip to state last year.
“The main thing from a coaching standpoint is that each year, as swimmers try to improve, it’s a struggle to get back to where your peak performance was when you rested the year before,” Lehman said. “As a general rule, if you can come close to matching or exceed the previous year’s taper performance when you were rested, that’s a big achievement. Kaitlin has done that.”
Heinen’s achievements are the product of months of work.
During the summer, she participated in a swimming camp at SHS. Practices lasted for about an hour and a half each day, and Heinen had the chance to share the pool with other elite swimmers in the area.
“I’m so happy I swam this summer,” Heinen said. “It really has helped me come into the season and be able to start off and get going right away. I definitely was in much better shape than I was last year.”
At the start of the swimming season, Heinen stepped up her training schedule with morning practice three days a week and a three-hour team practice every day after school.
“The typical swimmer, in just over an hour, will get about two miles in. She gets closer to three miles in,” Lehman said. “And she won’t swim easy; she does hard intervals or nothing.”
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays Heinen is in the pool from about 6-7 a.m. From there she goes on to her classes and then returns to the pool at the end of the school day.
Making every morning and afternoon practice can be tough, Heinen said, but she realizes it’s something she must do to reach her goals.
“Getting in the pool is a big step, and the first dive into the water is the hardest part,” Heinen said. “I know that by taking that first jump into the water in the morning, it will pay off.”
Heinen advanced to the WIAA Division 1 state championships last season in the 500 freestyle. In doing so, she became the first Spartan to compete at state since two relay teams advanced in 2002. As a swimmer in an individual event, she was the first since 1998.
The Spartans also have a chance for their fourth straight Lake Superior Conference title this year.
The Lake Superior Conference Championships are Oct. 27 at Superior High School. Superior then competes in the Division 1 sectional swim meet in Hudson on Nov. 3
“I’m hoping we’ll win conference,” Heinen said. “We have beat most of our rivals in the conference, and the team has been shaping up really, really well and working hard. I think as a team we definitely have a good shot.”
The Spartans lost key seniors from last year’s team, but the addition of half a dozen freshmen and a large group of sophomores has kept Superior competitive.
Lehman also said the Spartans have the benefit of elite veteran swimmers this season, including seniors Elonen and Johnson, who swam with Heinen on last year’s record-setting relay teams.
“We had a pretty big group of kids who were just new to the sport and new to high school swimming, so the atmosphere of the team was a bit different,” Lehman said. “But the new swimmers are developing nicely.”
Duluth East 102, Superior 80
200 individual medley relay — DE (Cora Knauss, Kayla Nyenhuis, Alissa Marlow, Kelly Punyko), 2:00.30; 200 freestyle — Sydney Nelson, DE, 2:12.71; 200 individual medley — Kaitlin Heinen, Sup, 2:19.80; 100 butterfly — Punyko, DE, 1:05.13; 100 freestyle — Heinen, Sup, 56.29; 500 freestyle — Knauss, DE, 5:46.71; 200 freestyle relay — Superior (Heinen, Grace Elonen, Kjersten Lisak, Victoria Johnson), 1:49.74; 100 backstroke — Knauss, DE, 1:05.40; 100 breaststroke — Nyenhuis, DE, 1:15.71; 400 freestyle relay — Superior (Elonen, Julie Snyder, Britta Bergstrom, Lisak), 4:32.02.