SLHS swimmers Larson, Hofmaster combine talent with hard work to reach goals
STORM LAKE - Storm Lake High swimmers Sarah Larson and Megan Hofmaster were standing in the water at Finkbine pool on the Buena Vista campus Tuesday afternoon, taking intermittent sips on water bottles during a break in their routine of swimming laps.
A handful of teammates were gathered near them taking their own breaks, when a swimmer mentioned that it was time to get back to work.
Larson, water bottle in hand, was quick to respond, saying, "we've still got a minute."
She said that with smile, and about 30 seconds later, resumed the routine.
"Sarah's been the leader of our team this season," first year SLHS swim coach Laura DeLoss said later that evening. "She's usually the first swimmer in the water and she's also our fastest swimmer when we do laps."
When it comes to actual competition, both Larson and Hofmaster have shined this fall.
A junior, Larson will compete in the 100 Breastroke at the state meet in Marshalltown Friday. She qualified for state last weekend in Fort Dodge, swimming a career-best time of 1 minute, 12.98 seconds.
Hofmaster, a diminutive sophomore who attends Laurens-Marathon High, will compete at state for the Tornadoes in the 100 Butterfly. At districts last Saturday, Hofmaster took fifth with a time of 1:05.13.
Larson and Hofmaster will be the first Storm Lake High swimmers to compete in a state meet since the 1998-1999 season.
Because only the top swimmer in each event in each district automatically qualifies for state, Larson and Hofmaster had to wait until Saturday night to see if they made the qualifying cut-off times.
"We went to Laura's dorm room at BVU Saturday, thinking we'd find out then," Hofmaster said. "We waited there about an hour and we still didn't know, so we went back home and Laura said she'd call us as soon as she knew anything."
Fortunately, the calls came and it was good news at the Larson and Hofmaster homes.
"There was a lot of pressure on our swimmers in the district meet," added DeLoss, a BVU junior and a standout swimmer at Spencer High and for BVU until administrators cut the program.
. "That was especially true for Sarah and Megan," she added. "I knew both were nervous before they swam Saturday because they wanted so badly to get to the state meet."
Now that they are there, Larson and Hofmaster have similar goals.
"I just want to beat my career-best time and enjoy the experience," Larson said. "It's probably going to be a really fast pace with the best swimmers in the state there. Both Megan and I are looking forward to the challenge."
DeLoss describes both swimmers as naturals. They swim multiple events, with Hofmaster swimming the 200 Individual Medley and two relays and Larson swimming the 50 Freestyle and the same two relays.
That doesn't mean this talented pair didn't need some work at the start of the season. DeLoss made sure they got it.
Larson said DeLoss ran a tighter ship with the Tornado girls this season, and that she also knows how to teach technique.
"And this was the first year that our team worked in the weight room a lot," Larson said. "I think that's helped a lot of girls on our team with their strength and endurance."
Larson and Hofmaster have both been swimming from early ages in summer programs, Larson with the Storm Lake Whitecaps and Hofmaster with a club in Laurens.
Larson has had more teachers than Hofmaster, however. Hofmaster is the oldest sibling in her family while Larson's older brother and sister, now both in their early 20's, swam for the Tornadoes in their high school days.
"I sort of followed in their footsteps," Larson said. "But swimming is something I've always loved to do, even in the summer."
Hofmaster started swimming when she was nine. She's easily the smallest girl on the team, probably about five feet tall, maybe less.
"I sometimes wonder how Megan can go so fast with her small size," DeLoss said with a chuckle. "But she does; I think she's just a real natural talent in the water."
Hofmaster didn't necessarily disagree, but added, "I've had to work pretty hard for the thing's I've accomplished."
Earlier this season, Hofmaster set a new Storm Lake High record in the 100 Butterfly, taking first in a meet in Spencer in late September with a time of 1:03.67.
She hasn't gone that fast since, mainly, DeLoss said, because of a nagging shoulder injury.
Larson meanwhile, started our her SLHS swimming career as a sprint freestyler, specializing in the 50 and 100 Freestyles.
In the last meet of last season, Larson tried the 100 Breastroke "just for fun," she says.
The SLHS junior swam a surprisingly good time, and has been swimming the Breastroke ever since. She's still swims the 50 Free well, however. She was 12th in that event at districts in 27.01 seconds.
Back in the pool Tuesday afternoon, meanwhile, the workout's pace seemed relaxed, almost leisurely.
"There was probably more pressure on Sarah and Megan at districts just to get to state," DeLoss said. "But at the start of their races Friday, I'm sure they'll both be feeling some butterflies."