Avery Baumann was 9 when she saw an ad for a swim team and thought it might be fun.
“I had nothing else to do,” the 12-year-old from Wilber said. “I barely knew how to swim.”
So she dove in, you might say. At first she tried all the strokes – freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly – to see which she liked best. In the time since, she’s found she prefers freestyle and butterfly.
In her first race, the 25-yard freestyle, she was in the first heat and got second.
“That was a great feeling for my first time,” she said.
Now, the 50-yard freestyle is her shortest race, with the longest being 200 yards. Avery said she may swim the 500-yard freestyle in the future.
The hardest race, she said, is the 100-yard butterfly because of the distance and the difficulty of the stroke.
“It’s physically demanding but a really fun sport,” she said.
Avery swims at the YMCA in Beatrice. Her workout program was designed by a cousin who studies kinesiology at Iowa State University.
“So far it’s working,” Avery said.
Her workouts are mainly in the water, but they also include work outside the pool. She said her favorite drill is the screwdriver which is a stroke that combines the backstroke with freestyle.
Workouts include endurance sprints and drills to improve her kicks, pulls and strokes, she said.
She has to know two different turns, one for the breaststroke and butterfly, which is an open turn, and the other for the freestyle and backstroke, which is a somersault.
“They’re ingrained into my memory,” she said.
Avery competes year-round, including home meets in Beatrice. She said meets in Kearney, Minnesota and Iowa are among her favorites. Her family (parents John and Lori, brother PJ and sister Mattie) is very supportive, she said. In fact, her grandfather became a swim judge.
Her friends also encourage her, and she tries to convince them to try competitive swimming in the summer.
“I’m trying to get it more popular,” she said.
During the six months of the winter season, which starts in September, Avery swims one hour a day four days a week. During the summer, that bumps up to 90 minutes a day five days a week.
She said meets can be nerve-wracking, but it depends on the size of the meet. She likes to hang out with her teammates and said she’s made a lot of friends among the competitors.
She prefers swimming in cooler water.
“I want to get out quicker. It’s faster to swim in,” she said.
Before a race, Avery said she likes to listen to music to calm her nerves. Her current music of choice is grunge music from the 1990s.
Her pre-race routine includes warming up and talking through the race with her coach, who reminds her of things to work on.
During the race, her mind is usually blank, she said.
“I swim fast and try to beat the person next to me,” she said.
Her next goal is to break 30 seconds in the 50-yard butterfly. Her best time so far is 32 seconds.
“That’s one of the most memorable things, to see times drop,” she said.
She’s also working on improving her dives, turns and underwater work. She said the underwater part of the race is the most important.
Her favorite swimmers are Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky and Missy Franklin, all Olympic medalists. Avery, who described herself has having long limbs and big hands and feet, wants to swim for Stanford when she gets to college and hopes for a chance at the Olympics.
“I want to make a name for myself,” she said.