Olivia Swalley knew she just had to push herself a little more during the 200-yard individual medley finals of the 2022 girls state swimming and diving meet.
The Johnston senior was closing in on the state record time of 2:00.33, set by former Mason City and University of Iowa swimmer Emma Stougstad in 2012. Swalley won the event in 2020 and 2021 with respective times of 2:03.28 and 2:01.85 and during the 2022 state prelims she tied Stougstad's mark after touching the wall in 2:00.33.
“I actually know Emma,” Swalley said. “She’s one of the Y(MCA/WCA) coaches, so I’ve known her for a while and it was funny to me that we tied. But I knew I could go a little bit harder in finals.”
After completing the butterfly and backstroke portions of the medley, Swalley knew she was in great shape.
"I remember during the backstroke I did a flip-turn and thought to myself I feel super good right now and I knew my best strokes (breaststroke and freestyle) were coming, so I just had to really push those ones hard," Swalley said. "It worked out and it was just the best feeling.”
Swalley easily broke Stougstad's mark. She was the first Iowa girl to break two minutes in the event at state with a time of 1:58.59.
“My senior year I wanted to have a celebratory season and not worry too much about it and this is just a dream come true,” Swalley said. “I never thought of getting a state record in my life. It was just so surreal.”
Swalley, who also won her third straight state championship in the 100 breaststroke, was named Athlete of the Year at the state meet. She is the Register's girls swimmer and diver of the year.
“She’s earned it,” said Johnston girls swimming coach Darin Robertson. “It wasn’t going to come easy for her. She’s worked hard for everything she’s got and she thrives on the competition.”
Swalley won the 100 backstroke championship at state in 1:01.50. It's the second-fastest effort in state history.
She took the 2020 and 2021 titles in the event with respective times of 1:04.12 and 1:02.98.
Swalley also did everything she could to help her teammates succeed at the state finals.
Swalley joined up with Olivia Frantum, Faith Frantum and Hailey Jensen to take second to Waukee in the 200 medley relay with a time of 1:45.07. She teamed with the Frantum sisters and Gianna Stasi to swim a 3:29.92 in the 400 freestyle relay, which also earned the Dragons a silver medal behind Waukee.
Her efforts helped Johnston score 184 points at state to place third as a team behind Waukee (402) and Dowling Catholic (267.5).
“It’s been really fun these last several years to watch her grow,” Robertson said. “She’s got a fantastic stroke and it’s something she works hard at every single day. It’s an inspiration for the rest of the team.”
Now Swalley has her sights set on a very bright future. She is taking her talents to Iowa City to swim for the Hawkeyes and coach Nathan Mundt.
“This is definitely really humbling for me,” Swalley said. “I’m so excited to work with Nathan and (Iowa assistant) Mona (Groteguth) next year. I’m really excited and so thankful for the opportunity.”
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Johnston's Swalley named 2022 All-Iowa girls swimmer of the year