Maggie Murphy, Belton High School’s freshman swimming sensation, had just finished competing in the 100-yard breast stroke at the TISCA Meet in Corpus Christi. The date was Nov. 23.
She looked up at her time: 1:08.89.
“I was pretty excited about that time,” said Murphy.
In the century-plus history of Belton High School, no female athlete had ever swam so fast in that event.
“But she not only broke that school record,” said senior teammate Megan Nitcher, “she smashed it.”
Indeed Murphy’s record-setting effort obliterated the school’s previous best time by more than five seconds.
“All of us teammates were excited for her,” said Nitcher. “I was so impressed that she broke that record as a freshman. We were giving her big hugs and going crazy but she was staying modest. Actually she was pretty calm.”
So was her coach.
“I’ve worked with Maggie for a long time,” said Belton head coach Mike Burt. “I can’t say I expected her to come through last weekend with a time like that. But I knew her capabilities and so I wasn’t really all that surprised.
“Of course I was very pleased for her. But I have high expectations for my kids and I set goals for them that will challenge and stretch them.”
The bar is set high this season for Murphy and Nitcher. And both Murphy and Nitcher like it that way.
Nitcher set school records last season as a junior in two events: the 100 butterfly and 100 freestyle. Nitcher capped off a terrific junior season by finishing first in two events at districts—100 butterfly and 200 freestyle—and then third at regionals in the fly.
The 2013-2014 swimming postseason begins in January.
“I know that Megan Nitcher wants to repeat and again be a champ in districts in a few events,” said Burt. “And she again expects to swim real strong at regionals.”
“I am very excited about January,” said Nitcher. “This is my last year, so I want to make it the best I can.”
“Megan is just an amazing flyer,” said Murphy. “She has such a strong work ethic.”
Nitcher is clearly Belton’s team leader.
“Megan Nitcher is a very strong-willed leader in a positive way,” said Burt. “She wants things to be right. So she is very encouraging with her help. She gives a lot of support to her teammates. She’ll talk to people one-on-one just to see how she can help others get better. She also sets a great example. She’s so dedicated, so conscientious with her training. She’s a very competitive swimmer in both meets and practices. She’s a very smart young lady. She listens well. She pays attention to the little details.”
Of Murphy, Nitcher said, “She does remind me a little bit of me because she works so hard at practice like I try to do. I think everyone has been extremely impressed with her. As a freshman, it can be hard to adjust to high school and then also be working so much on your swimming—but she’s done a great job managing everything.”
According to Burt, Murphy will not be tested in the district meet in the 100 breaststroke.
“She’ll win the district,” Burt said matter-of-factly. “There’s no one even close to her in the breaststroke. But she’ll need to drop another two seconds from her current times to compete at regionals with the young lady who won it last year. If Maggie can get in the top three at regionals in the 100 breaststroke, that would be a great accomplishment.”
The top six finishers in district move on to regionals. The top finisher at regionals earns a spot in the prestigious state meet in Austin. Along with the regional champ, the next eight fastest swimmers across Texas earn a state meet bid.
“My goals are to always keep bettering my times,” said Murphy. “Now that I’m a high school swimmer, my overall goal is to make it to the state meet. I realize as a freshman that might be hard to do. But that will always remain my goal.”
Nitcher’s school record in the 100 butterfly is 59.4. Burt thinks she needs to cut two seconds off that time to earn that trip to Austin.
“To cut those two seconds, I think Megan will have to do so in the first half of the race,” he said.
“I agree with Coach,” said Nitcher. “He’s talked about this with me. He’s showed me what’s needed. He thinks I’ll need to be in the 57-second range.
“I know it will be tough to cut two seconds in the next four weeks. But I want to do it. And I don’t just want to be on the edge of doing it either. I’d like to get even faster than the goal we’ve set.
“Last year, at regionals, I was extremely happy to finish in third place. Before then, making it to state was just a thought. But getting so close made me decide to put that extra effort in and really push it to make it to state.
“Going to state is not just a thought to me anymore — it’s an actual possibility.”
Contact Allan Mandell at email@example.com or 254-501-7566