Northland notebook: Challenged runner becomes Park Hill champion swimmer

02/12/2014 12:18 PM

02/12/2014 12:18 PM

A younger, more carefree Madison Heydinger once had the itch to play sports. She wanted to try them all before settling on a favorite or two.

Except the Park Hill High School junior had a slight hindrance with every sport she tried.

“I’m an awful runner,” Heydinger says now. “So I was bad at everything.”

Her solution? Find a sport that doesn’t involve running.

Heydinger took her first swimming lesson when she was 8. Nine years later, it has proved to be the perfect decision.

For the second straight season, Heydinger won both the 500- and 200-yard freestyle events at the Suburban Red Conference meet, cruising past the competition in both events last Saturday at the Henley Aquatic Center in Independence.

Next stop: The Missouri State High School Activities Association Swimming and Diving Championships on Feb. 21-22 in St. Peters, Mo.

“It definitely gives you encouragement because you know you’re doing well,” Heydinger said of the two conference titles. “It gives you a boost heading to state.”

It will be her third appearance at the state meet. She qualified in both events in her two previous seasons.

Heydinger said her expectations next week are to place in the top eight in each event, and that will require a change in approach.

“The last two years, it’s been nerve-wracking, and I’ve freaked myself out walking in there,” she said. “I’m going to try to go in with a more positive attitude. I have to keep it in my mind that I’m there because I earned it, just like everybody else.”

Easier said than done, of course, but Heydinger believes she has found the right mental strategy.

“I’ve started visualizing the races the night before,” she said. “I think about how I start, my swimming technique and my breathing (patterns), and I just go through the race in my head.”

She already has vision for the state championship meet.

“I’m going to visualize swimming my fastest time of the year,” she said.

Swimming notes

Liberty North won the Suburban Blue Conference swimming championship last Saturday at the North Kansas City Natatorium. The Eagles totaled 441 team points, followed by Kearney (382), Platte County (375), Winnetonka (361), Raytown South (104) and Grandview (53).

Liberty North senior Emily McFadden paced the Eagles’ drive to the title by winning the 100- and 200-yard freestyle events.

Kearney junior Madison Strathman won the 100 breaststroke and the 200 individual medley.

Also last Saturday, Oak Park edged Staley for the Suburban White Conference swimming title. Two-event winners for the Oakies were Hannah Rupard in the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly and senior Hannah Eisele-Miller in the 100 backstroke and 200 individual medley.

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