Freshman swimmer Hannah Taylor is is rewriting the M-P record book

MARYSVILLE — Have you ever read a more glowing description of a young athlete than this?

“Every once in a great while an athlete comes along that has the combination of talent, excellent DNA and a fantastic ability to compete. And sometimes at the age of 12 to 14, they figure out how to activate the mechanism.

“She has figured out how to win and how to push herself and how to achieve her goals.”

“She” is Hannah Taylor, a freshman swimmer at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, and the person enthusiastically praising Taylor is Jaci LeGore Hodgins, Taylor’s coach.

Hodgins isn’t exaggerating. Taylor, 14, has been in high school just a few months but already has rewritten most of M-P’s girls swimming record book. This fall Taylor swam record times in seven of the eight individual events, and she has helped set program bests in all three relays.

In addition, Taylor achieved qualifying times for the Class 4A state championships in every event.

None of it surprises Emily (Hutson) Emery, a 1999 M-P graduate. “We knew it was coming,” Emery said.

Until early September, Emery — who swam at San Jose State University — owned six individual-event records on M-P’s all-time leaderboard. But week by week, Taylor has wiped out Emery’s old records, some of which stood for a dozen years.

Is Emery upset? No way.

“It’s been really fun,” said Emery, who works at the M-P pool, where Taylor has enjoyed some of her best performances.

Since she was a senior in high school, Emery has known Taylor, who started splashing in the Marysville pool as a 6-month-old baby and has been a fixture there ever since.

“Hannah’s what we like to call a little pool baby,” Emery said. “She’s grown up at the pool.”

Between M-P and her club team, Taylor spends five hours a day at the pool, a place she called her “second home.” At age 9, Taylor gave up other sports to focus on swimming. She has competed year-round ever since.

“I think I chose swimming,” Taylor said, “because I felt I could go farther with it. It has brought me farther than I think soccer would have ever done.”

Taylor is gearing up for her first Class 4A District 1 meet (Nov. 5-7 in Marysville). The state championships are a week later in Federal Way. But the high school season is just a warm up for what she will do in December.

Taylor qualified for the 2009 AT&T Short Course National Championships, scheduled for Dec. 3-5, also in Federal Way at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center. She will swim the 200-yard individual medley and a relay event in the big-time meet that will be nationally televised.

It could be the first of many appearances on the national stage for Taylor, whose best individual events are the medley and the breaststroke.

“I can just see her getting stronger and faster,” Emery said. “It would not surprise me in the least to see her (eventually) going to the Olympics.”

“She has every odd in her favor,” said Hodgins, the M-P coach, referring to Taylor’s natural ability, training regimen and genes.

About those genes: Taylor’s mother, Christy Taylor, was a standout athlete who became a scholarship swimmer at the University of Arizona. She is also an assistant coach for Marysville-Pilchuck.

Although Hannah Taylor started swimming year-round a few years later than many of her club-team peers, she progressed quickly, Taylor’s mom said.

“Just the last couple years Hannah has really exploded with her times,” Christy Taylor said. “She’s kind of been a late bloomer with that, so hopefully it will (continue).”

Coach Hodgins and Taylor’s mom both praised Taylor’s club-team coach, Kirby Schaufler, who guides the Marysville-based Mighty Marlins Swim Club. Several other M-P competitors also swim for the Marlins.

“Kirby is a very special coach,” Hodgins said. “I call him a sensei because … he knows how to train kids in the healthiest way, and they have fun. There’s this awesome balance of healthy, fun and let’s get after it.”

Emery, the former M-P star and record-holder, has helped Taylor too. Emery worked with Taylor on her breaststroke, Emery’s No. 1 strength in high school and college. Said Emery, “You can explain something to her and she just goes, ‘Oh, OK. I’ve got it.’ She picks it up right away.”

Asked about her goals for this year, Taylor said she wants to place in the top three in the 100-yard breaststroke and 200 individual medley at state, and help two M-P relays place high as well.

She envisions herself in sunny California after high school.

“I want to get a full-ride scholarship to USC, no doubt,” Taylor said. “(And) it would be cool to at least make the Olympic trials — maybe make the Olympics.”

Clearly, Taylor has exciting potential. But she needs to raise the bar higher each year to reach her goals, her mother said.

“It’s going to get harder and harder,” Christy Taylor said. “Even what she’s doing now, it’s nothing compared to what she’ll be doing in college. It’s a totally different ball of wax.”

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