POULSBO — For the followers of North Kitsap High School girls’ swimming, the fact that sophomore Jacklene Salwei qualified for state is not surprising. What’s surprising is how she got there.
Salwei, who was North’s lone state qualifier last year, was slowed this year by an injury to her right ankle — it was diagnosed late in the season as rheumatoid arthritis.
She missed several meets, and when she returned late in the year, she was cautioned by doctors not to swim events that traversed long distances, even though she’s strongest in those events.
Undettered, Salwei went into a meet against Bremerton competing in the 50 and 100 freestyle, which for her were new events.
If Salwei was rusty, she did a great job at hiding it, swimming the 50 in 25.76 seconds, beating the state qualifying time of 25.85, and swimming the 100 freestyle in 56.48, beating out the state qualifying time of 56.5.
Coach Greg Braun was surprised by Salwei’s success.
“You think that Jackie’s going to have to salvage the season,” he said, “and she goes out in her first meet back and qualifies for state in the 50 and 100.”
Braun said, “When she was injured we thought, ‘She went to state last year, but won’t get there this year.’”
But with her sparkling times in the 50 and 100, Salwei will indeed return to Federal Way Nov. 9 and 10, this time as a short-distance swimmer.
To that end, she’s been training differently — “We’ve had her do more sprint work, more speed work,” said Braun.
“I’m usually a distance swimmer,” said Salwei, who admitted she was as suprised as everyone else when she qualified for state in the 50 and 100.
“That was a surprise,” she said. “I usually don’t swim those.”
Now Salwei is trying to change her stripes and swim shorter distances.
She has been working with coaches Braun and Marilyn Grindrod to master thsoe shorter distances. Other swimmers have shown team spirit by helping her train, even though they themselves have not qualified for state.
“It’s fun to swim something new,” Salwei said. “It’s kind of a break.”
After a recent practice of swimming short bursts, Salwei mulled her goals at state.
“I’m hoping to make it to consolation or finals,” she said. “But that’ll take a lot of work.”
If the past and present are any indication, Salwei will hardly be a fish out of water in Federal Way, where last year she finished 12th in the prelims and 16th in the finals.
“It’s been a pretty good season, considering what’s happened,” she said.