OSU's freshman phenom
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 01:01
Freshman swimmer Sammy Harrison has been a pleasant surprise in the pool so far this season for the Oregon State women’s swimming team.
Head coach Larry Liebowitz says it’s no surprise at all.
“She’s just showing that she’s the athlete I thought she was when I recruited her,” Liebowitz said.
Harrison was recruited out of Coronado High School in Henderson, Nev. — 931 miles away from Corvallis. She has been swimming for 14 years, and it was in high school that she realized it was her passion.
“My freshmen year of high school, that’s when I realized I needed to make a commitment,” Harrison said.
After her freshman year in high school, Harrison became a standout in the pool and grew accustomed to winning. For three years in a row, Harrison managed to win two state events, a feat many swimmers may never hope to accomplish.
The thrill of achieving those accolades in high school was obviously something substantial for her.
“When I broke the state record for Nevada at the state meet my senior year, that was very exciting,” Harrison said.
Harrison posted a time of 4:49.82 in the 500-yard freestyle, nine seconds faster than the second-fastest time — which also happens to be held by Harrison (4:58.25). The third-fastest mark on the all-time list is still a stunning seven seconds slower than Harrison, at 4:51.89, and it was posted 28 years ago, in 1985.
After being in the spotlight for most of her high school career, it did not take long for Harrison to find it again at the collegiate level.
Earlier in the season, against BYU, Harrison found victory and posted a season-best time in the 1,000-yard freestyle — beating her closest competitor by more than 36 seconds.
“In college, [the best moment] so far . . . was just this past weekend, doing 1,000 and the 200 back to back,” Harrison said.
Last weekend, the Beavers faced off against rival Washington State in the first of a back-to-back, facing Idaho the next day.
It was the display put on by Harrison on Friday that impressed her coach.
“Her performance in the 1,000-yarder against Washington State was hands down one of the greatest displays of swimming I’ve ever seen,” Liebowitz said.
Harrison won three races that night, two of them coming one right after the other. In the 1,000-yard freestyle, Harrison once again posted a season-best, and this time a career-best with a time of 10:05.24, five seconds faster than her previous time posted at BYU.
“I didn’t expect to go as fast as I did, so when I looked up at the clock and saw a 10:05 I was really happy that I could go that fast without putting my full self into it,” Harrison said.
Before the races, Harrison and Liebowitz shared a moment in confidence.
“He said it will be really challenging,” Harrison said. “But I took it on head first and he said I did really well.”
Aside from constantly breaking her own records and the goals she sets for herself, Harrison has also achieved a high number of individual wins so far this season. Although Harrison makes it look easy, she insists collegiate swimming is not as easy as it seems.
“[Swimming] is a lot tougher, and a lot more competitive — which is how I like it,” Harrison said, “It’s been a little challenging so far, but I like it and it has definitely been worth it.”
Despite this being only her inaugural year in collegiate swimming, Harrison has large goals.
“I want to go to the Olympics in 2016,” Harrison said.
With such large aspirations, it’s no wonder Harrison does so well in the pool.
It isn’t only her achievements that drive Harrison, but also the support received from her coach and teammates.
“We have the greatest seniors, and they’re really inspirational because they show up to practice every day, they work hard, and they do everything that I would like to do,” Harrison said. “They make sure we don’t fall behind; they take care of us and get us ready to go fast.”
Not only does Harrison have three more years left in her collegiate swimming career at OSU, she also has three years until her coveted goal of swimming in the Olympics has a chance at becoming a reality.
But before any of that can happen, Harrison has to swim in the team’s next meet — the Pac-12 Championships on Feb. 27.
That event won’t be for three weeks, but regardless, Harrison will have to bring her “A” game because nothing is guaranteed in the pool.
Darryl Oliver III, sports reporter