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Fri, May 24

Closing in …Prescott swimmer Heather Thomas eyes Trials at Junior National competition next week

PRESCOTT – Inching ever closer to the Olympic trials, Prescott's Heather Thomas will make her way to the pool at Junior Nationals next week.

The local swimmer advanced to Nationals with her time of 1:00.13 in the 100-meter freestyle at the Janet Evans Invitational Meet at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles earlier this month.

"Heather swam really fabulous swims at this meet," said her coach Mark Taylor, who heads up the Mesa Aquatics in the Valley. "She was able to do her best times in over a year in many events, but the best thing she did was she got her Junior cut again in the 100 freestyle."

Her "cut" is another of the all-important qualifying time cuts the 17-year-old Thomas has earned which usually pave the way toward a college scholarship.

Thomas' progression in the pool the past year and a half is no coincidence. The Prescott High School senior-to-be first joined Mesa Aquatics 18 months ago after first beginning her competitive swimming career with the Prescott Swim Team at the age of 10.

But her prowess quickly outgrew the local club outfit, and Thomas caught the eye of Taylor who invited her to join the Aquatics.

Although the Mesa club team boasts around 40 members, Thomas is the lone participant not from the Mesa area. In turn, her practice sessions are often twice as challenging, working out on her own locally at the Prescott YMCA with regimens Taylor sends by fax.

"It's definitely tougher to work away from the team because there's the whole mental issue involved with trying to motivate yourself and not being able to play off the other swimmers," Thomas said.

Despite the hardship of being an isolated team member, Thomas felt it was time to make the move from the Prescott Swim Team to the much more competitive Aquatics of Mesa.

"I just decided that it was time that I needed to up my yardage in workouts. And then I'd have a better team to play off when I do practice with them," she said.

With a heightened training program in Mesa, Thomas has included dry land training and running to her regular regimen.

In the water, training has increased even more. Thomas swims 5,000-7,000 yards per practice in her nine practice sessions a week which include double-days three times a week, workouts every evening, three mornings per week, and on Saturdays.

"That Sunday off is necessary," Thomas laughed. "I go home and sleep."

Heading off to San Antonio, Texas, next week for the Junior Nationals, Thomas will swim her primary event, the 100 freestyle. This past year, she swam a qualifying time in the 200 backstroke and will also compete in that event at Nationals.

Thomas is still undecided about which college she will attend, but does maintain that the University of Arizona, where she attended a swim camp earlier this summer, is among her top considerations.

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