When she was 6-years-old, current Walkersville High School sophomore Molly Updegraff won her first race, the 25-meter backstroke, while representing Deerbought in the Frederick Summer Swim League, by only kicking.
“I didn’t want to hit my head,” she said.
Updegraff has come a long way since then — she’s added the arms part — and as a freshman last winter, she presented herself as one of the Frederick County’s brightest young talents.
She is a half of Walkersville’s talented brother-sister duo that could help propel the Lions back to the top of county and state swimming this winter.
Walkersville senior Brad Updegraff has established himself in the county’s upper echelon the past three years — he won the 100-yard breaststroke at last year’s county championship. The Lions girls and boys finished outside the Top 3.
“My freshman year, we won counties, regionals and states and that was really exciting. I’d love to be able to do that again, that is probably the highlight of my swimming career,” the elder Updegraff said.
At 6-1, Walkersville’s girls have positioned themselves as a major contender for this year’s county title. The Lions’ boys (4-3), Brad said, should also not be overlooked as a threat.
Ask the brother and sister what their favorite stroke is and both will quickly respond with the breaststroke. But the beauty of the sibling duo, Lions boys coach Adam White said, is that they can be proficient in just about any race. And are willing to take on those challenges.
Together, the Updegraffs hold five Walkersville program records and are within striking distance of several more. Brad, who said he hopes to best the Lions’ 100-yard breaststroke mark by year’s end, is in the record books for the 100-yard butterfly, 200-yard individual medley and 400-yard freestyle relay. His younger sister is off to a promising start, already holding the 200-yard individual medley and 200-yard medley relay records.
“The most important thing about both of them is their willingness to be team players. They will do whatever we ask of them and that makes it a lot easier to do lineups,” White said. “We can fill out our best lineups and whatever is left, we can put Brad and Molly there [and thy will do well].”
Though the Updegraffs excel in the same areas — Molly said growing up she followed what her older brother was doing — their approach to swimming is different, White said.
Both are extremely technical; butterfly and breaststroke swimmers need to be, White added. But the elder Updegraff is propelled by his sheer desire to beat everyone he faces. Molly’s focus, White said, is on herself and continually improving. The end result, he added, is the same.
“It comes to the same ends, but it’s different means. They know what they can do and what they can’t. They have certain abilities and skills and they push themselves hard. They don’t have a lot of fear of other athletes, which is always very important for a swimmer,” White said.
Brad, who said he plans on swimming in college next year, but has yet to decide where, and Molly, who said her next big goal is to achieve junior national cut times, have certainly pushed themselves hard this winter. They put in nearly 30 hours a week between high school and club practices with the North Baltimore Aquatic Club.
Both will be major contenders in any event they swim this postseason.
Molly started swimming when she was 6 because her older brother was on the Deerbought swim team and she wanted to do what he was doing, she said. It’s a good thing he focused more on forward-facing strokes, which eliminates the risk of backing head first into a cement wall.
“I’ve always tried to work up to where Brad was at the time, I think that’s helped me get better,” Molly said. “He is a great captain for our team [too]. He is really good at getting the team motivated.”