Chasing a record

Chances are you have heard the name Garren Riechel. Riechel’s competitors certainly have.

The 6-foot, 3-inch, 175-pound Riechel is a junior at Snohomish High School and is the two-time defending state champion in the 100-yard breaststroke. Just halfway through his high school swimming career, Riechel has already achieved more than most but he has more goals on his list.

Riechel hopes to win the 100-yard breaststroke event the next two years to complete the four-peat. He also hopes to finally take home the championship in the 200 individual medley. He placed third his freshman year and second last season.

Riechel hopes Snohomish can win its third consecutive team state championship this season as well, which he said could be difficult since the school lost several swimmers to graduation.

Perhaps an even loftier goal is setting the state record in the 100 breaststroke because — Riechel quickly pointed out — it also happens to be the national record. Seattle Prep’s Patrick Fowler set that record in 1998 with a time of 53.66 seconds. Riechel’s best time to date is 56.06 seconds.

“I am hoping to drop more and get closer to that mark this year,” Riechel said.

Riechel trains hard every day to achieve his goals, some days practicing as much as six hours a day, beginning at 5:30 a.m.

“It’s tough to drag yourself out of bed countless mornings, but you’ve got to get up and do it,” he said.

Another challenge this season for Riechel will be coming off his second off-season surgery in consecutive years. The first was to repair a loose bone in his elbow and the most recent to relieve arthritis in his shoulder.

“I feel it, it’s uncomfortable, but I just try to train through it,” he said of his shoulder.

Riechel added competing in the Olympic Trials to his already impressive resume this past summer before his shoulder surgery. He represented his club team, StingRay swimming. A 24th-place finish in the 100-meter breaststroke at the competition in Omaha, Nebraska, left him short of the top-16 finish he needed to reach the final.

Riechel was able to meet one of his hero’s at the trials, Brendan Hansen. Riechel looks up to Hansen because he also races the breaststroke event. Hansen won Olympic gold medals in 2004 and 2008 in the 400-meter medley relay.

Riechel hopes that his experience at the Olympic Trials can give him a leg up if he is able to return in four years.

“We’ll see what happens in 2012 and hopefully I’m in London (site of the 2012 Games),” he said.

Snohomish coach Rob Serviss has nothing but praise for his star swimmer.

“Swimmers like Garren that are at that level have a natural ability to feel the water. Every motion has a purpose and it just comes naturally,” he said. “He’s certainly the fastest swimmer I have ever coached. He has a rare combination of extreme level of talent, and an outstanding work ethic.”

In Riechel’s case, swimming hasn’t always come easily. He admits to not being able to even finish his first race and struggling through many of his early swims.

“I don’t think anyone was really expecting me to do anything in the sport. I’ve been surprised by how far I’ve come,” he said.

Riechel said he plans on sticking to the breaststroke.

“It just kind of comes naturally to me,” he said. “The breaststroke works. The backstroke is evil. It doesn’t click with me. We don’t get along. I don’t see any reason to change.”

Not only does Riechel enjoy success in the water, he enjoys it outside the water as well. He has a 3.94 cumulative GPA and is considering Stanford, Florida, USC and the University of Texas among other colleges, but he hasn’t made any decisions yet.

“I just usually try to take it year by year,” said a laid-back Riechel.

Riechel mentioned law or medicine as possible career paths. He would like to stick with swimming in some way but knows it would be hard to make a career in the sport.

“Swimming is not exactly the most popular sport. By no means am I banking on that because that would be way too sketchy,” he said.

Riechel’s poise and maturity certainly help him inside and outside the pool and there is no question that his future is extremely bright.

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