Medina’s Carolyn Yurkoski can remember it like it was yesterday.
The then-middle school student sat in the stands with her older sister, Jacqueline, at the C.T. Branin Natatorium, watching the state swim meet and dreaming of one day being in the pool.
That dream has become reality, as Yurkoski will compete Friday after earning an at-large bid in the 50-yard freestyle.
“It’s very exciting,” she said. “Ultimately that was my goal, but I didn’t even start talking about it (with my coaches) until after sectionals.
“It was then my coaches started telling me that I better expect to be practicing for two more weeks. All I said was, ‘Ha, ha, OK,’ because I didn’t want to get my hopes up. It kind of snuck up on me.”
A runner-up finish at the Akron Division I Sectional sparked the junior’s performance a week later at the Cleveland District, where she broke her own school record for the second straight week. She clocked 24.61 to place sixth and earn one of the final at-large state bids.
While this is the time of year swimmers are tapering, Medina coach Jamie Moore noted Yurkoski’s competitive drive has helped extend her season.
“She’s one kid that just likes to race,” Moore said. “When it’s time, she’s just ready to go and has great starts.”
The 16-year-old has come a long way from a wide-eyed youngster who started following Jacqueline, a 2011 Medina grad and former standout in the 100 breaststroke, and developed a love for the sport.
Yurkoski found out early in her freshman year she had a knack for it.
“My sister always told me that it was fun, but it was hard work,” she said. “When I started training with the high school coaches, I was in shock that the training was so hard. I didn’t think I was very fast.
“Then I noticed, ‘Hey, I’m keeping up with the juniors and seniors on the team.’”
Yurkoski’s speed was quickly noticed, and she was placed on the 400 free relay that broke the school record with then-underclassman Samantha Petruzzi.
From there, Yurkoski’s career took off.
“She definitely has gotten stronger, and you can’t learn that overnight,” Moore said. “She’s a competitor and knows how to put it all together.”
The big part for the 5-foot-8 Yurkoski, who also qualified for the districts in the 1-meter dive, is that she’s still having fun.
It’s the same enjoyment she had 9 years ago when she started swimming for the Medina Community Recreation Center’s program, the Makos, and it has carried to the high school ranks.
“I can remember going with my older sister to state and thinking how cool it would be to be there, but I never thought I would,” Yurkoski said. “It will be a little different not having any of my teammates on the deck with me, but I know they will be there.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.