If you’re friends with Holton-Arms School sophomore swimmer Caroline McTaggart, there’s a good chance you got a knit scarf for Christmas.
While the intricate and somewhat redundant work infuriates many, McTaggart said she finds it calming, especially before major competitions.
McTaggart participated in her biggest meets yet in 2012, including the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials last summer — she qualified in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle.
“Generally you’re told to calm your nerves [before a meet]. Knitting does that for me. I’ve done mostly scarves but I am working a sweater now,” McTaggart said.
Trials was the first big step for McTaggart, said Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart coach Bob Walker, who is McTaggart’s club swimming coach with All Star Aquatics.
The 6-foot, 1-inch primarily sprint freestyler will take another leap forward later this month.
In December, McTaggart received an invitation to the USA Swimming National Select Camp held Jan. 24-27 at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
The camp consists of 30 boys and 30 girls, ages 14-16.
The fastest two eligible athletes in long course (meters) in each event between Sept. 1, 2011, and Aug. 31, 2012, were selected to the January camp.
McTaggart owned the country’s second-fastest 100-meter freestyle time.
As McTaggart’s individual coach, Walker also will travel to Colorado at the end of the month.
Both said they expect the camp to be a tremendous learning experience. They also agreed the selection is a huge confidence booster; McTaggart said she is starting to fully realize the level of swimming she has reached.
“I’m just really thrilled, this is such an honor. [Being selected] has been a great motivator in practice to really work hard. I keep saying ‘This is for Colorado!’” McTaggart said. “This really is a huge confidence builder.”
In addition to training alongside the country’s best in her age group under the supervision of some of the best coaches, McTaggart also will participate in classroom sessions that include lessons on post-race recovery, psychological training skills, nutrition and race strategy, among other topics, according to the USA Swimming website.
McTaggart also will be recorded using under water cameras for the first time, which she and Walker agreed would provide great insight.
“I’ve always thought Caroline has been incredibly strong under the water. To see what she actually does, I think it will open up her eyes and help her become even faster. I think it will help her become even more powerful. I’m eager to see the video [myself] when she gets back, to see how she is performing under water,” Holton swimming and diving coach Graham Westerberg said.
After Holton’s first non-win in seven years at the Independent School League championship in 2011, McTaggart led the Panthers back to their eighth title in nine seasons last winter.
She currently holds seven individual program record: 50-yard freestyle, 100 freestyle, 200 freestyle, 500 freestyle, 100 backstroke, 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley.
McTaggart’s height is certainly an asset, Walker said. Just falling into the water off the starting blocks, she is ahead of those not as tall and she is doing less strokes per length than most of her competitors, therefore making her more energy efficient.
And now that she’s grown into her frame, she’s becoming even more powerful, he added.
“I think Caroline is in a position where she has a lot of potential left in her and that’s the exciting thing. And once you have potential and then you have something exciting like this happen, it inspires you even more to want to do better,” Walker said.
As McTaggart reaches new heights in swimming, her knitting will no doubt improve as well. Perhaps she will have a blanket by the end of the year.
“So many scarves. But my friends like them, so that’s good,” McTaggart said.