Suffice to say, Brunswick’s Mikayla Dostall is one of the best backstroke swimmers in the area.
Not too shabby for a sophomore with bad knees.
The underclassman has battled through aches and pains to keep the reputation she established last season in qualifying for districts and breaking the school record.
“She’s one tough cookie,” Blue Devils coach Erin Crabtree said. “We dealt with tears and pain, but when it’s race time, she races.”
The 16-year-old is undefeated in the backstroke this season with the exception of a season-opening dual loss to teammate Lauren Oktavec.
“It’s been a lot tougher than I thought,” Dostall said. “I was hoping my times would be a lot faster right now, but the knees are holding me back.”
While some athletes would sit out and complain, Dostall has faced the challenge head on.
When she needs some advice, her older sister, former Brunswick standout and current University of Akron swimmer Danielle, is a phone call away.
“I’ve been watching my sister since I was 8 and now, with her living in Akron, she looks up my results and calls or texts me,” Mikayla Dostall said. “She went through the same knee injury I went through.”
Crabtree has moved Dostall into more freestyle events, along with the backstroke, instead of the 100 butterfly she participated in last season.
Along with her domination in the backstroke, winning the Northeast Ohio Conference River Division, Barberton Invitational and Northeast Classic titles, she has been moving around from the 50 free (26.67) to the 200 free (2:07.54), as well as swimming the lead leg of the medley relay with a season-low split of 29.11.
While Dostall’s backstroke time is a couple seconds slower than her school-record pace of a year ago (from 1:00.74 to a season-best 1:02.30), she feels the speed events will help her times in the future.
“I’ve been nice doing the freestyle this year, and it’s helped me drop a lot more time,” Dostall said. “I hope to keep the 50 free (for the postseason) and focusing on that and the backstroke.”
As for the tough times before races, it will take more than some aches to get her out of the pool.
“There were a couple of meets this season where I told her, ‘I can pull you out so you can rest,’” Crabtree said. “She said, ‘No, I’m doing it.’ And she wipes the tears off and races.”
Prior to seventh grade, Dostall spent more time working on her ballet and tap-dance moves than her underwater kick. She didn’t pick up swimming until middle school after dancing and playing volleyball.
But after dropping dance, her mom told her she needed to pick up a sport.
Luckily for the Blue Devils, swimming was the choice.
“She put me in summer swimming with my sister, and from there I joined a USA Swimming Team,” the 5-foot-9 Dostall said. “It was a lot different.”
With just a little more than three years of competitive experience in the sport, she still has room to improve.
“She’s still a sophomore, and sometimes we have to put that in perspective,” Crabtree said. “Her backstroke has been just as strong (with the injury) and her foot speed underwater helps. We’re expecting great things.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.