Warriors Athlete of Week: Senior swimmer possesses will to win
Hannah McKeag and Julia Wallace swam against each other in practice and in meets for three years, pushing each other to be the best they could be in the 100-yard backstroke.
McKeag, who graduated in 2016, was a 3-time state entrant in the event and is the Brainerd Warriors' school-record holder with a time of 58.70. Wallace ranks No. 2 in school history with her 1:01.64 clocking.
"Hannah McKeag was the best in program history, Julia is second-best in program history, and they were on the same team," Warriors coach Dan Anderson said. "For the past three years, Julia's been in her shadow. People don't realize how good Julia really is so it's nice to see her having the season she's having."
Wallace said training with McKeag "obviously helped a ton, knowing what worked well for her, doing as much as I could to get her techniques with underwater kicking. This year not having her here is different but I think I was ready for it."
Wallace has been ready from the firing of the first starter's gun this season. In four dual meets, she is unbeaten in the backstroke as well as flourishing in the 200 individual medley in which she's also unbeaten. In all, she has finished first in nine of a 10 possible individual events.
In addition, she's standing out with her 200 medley and 400 free relay teammates, winning 10 of a possible 10 races.
- Sport: Swimming
- Events: 100 backstroke, 200 IM, 200 medley relay, 400 free relay
- Year: Senior
- Age: 17
- Height: 5-6
- Career highlight: Beating Sartell 93-92 in 2013
- Other sports: Golf
- Grade-point average: 3.95
- Favorite class: AP Music Theory
- Favorite food: Rafferty's pepperoni pizza
- Favorite movie: "Blind Side"
- Favorite TV show: "Grey's Anatomy"
- Favorite website: "Twitter"
- Hobbies: Being with friends & family
- Future plans: Attend Minnesota State University Moorhead, swim for the Dragons, major in elementary education
- Favorite swimmers: Olympians Katie Ledecky and Michael Phelps
- Parents: Brian and Patty Wallace
"It's been a lot of fun being on this team," Wallace said. "It's a different dynamic than it has been in past years. Being able to be one of the older girls, and be a leader, I feel like I've embraced that and I've just been having more fun than previous years. I've been more relaxed."
Anderson said Wallace the senior captain hasn't had a chance to relax in any race.
"She's had some tough races," he said. "She's had to gut it out in a couple of those, especially in the IM to get those wins, so it's a lot of it sheer willpower on her part.
"Julia's a competitor. If she can be close at the end, she's hard to beat. Some kids have that will to win and she does. That transfers into practice. She trains really hard. She's always asking questions like 'How can I get better? What can I do to get better." We joke about that, all the questions she asks, but that's what you want, someone who wants to get better."
The 200 IM isn't Wallace's favorite event and but you would never know based upon her results.
"The 200 IM is a love-hate relationship," she said. "Sometimes it will go all right and I'll be happy with it, other times it can be one of the hardest things and it seems like it's impossible to do. I'm always really tired at the end of that more than the backstroke."
Wallace swims the backstroke to lead off the medley relay and usually teams up with Kylie Lange, Katie Streiff and either Isabelle Prozinski or her sister Jamie Wallace.
"I was on that relay last year but I just did freestyle," Wallace said. "It's most of the same girls. We like to push that relay and try to win every time."
Jamie Wallace, Madelyn Gibbons and Streiff are on the 400 free relay along with Julia Wallace who swims the second leg.
"That relay is at the end of the meet and usually we're all really tired," Wallace said. "We try to have fun with that one, not worry so much about our times, and swim good races at the end of meets but we're usually really exhausted by that time."
All of her success this fall may be a bit surprising since Wallace didn't join the varsity swim team until her freshman year. She did swim for the Brainerd YMCA Dolphin team but played volleyball in the fall. Wallace said she became a varsity swimmer because she enjoyed the swim team atmosphere.
"We're all so close," she said. "I call them my 30 best friends. We just have fun. There's never any drama between the girls. We can go to each other with anything. We know it's a safe place. The biggest draw for me was being part of this amazing team."
The Warriors stand 4-0 in Central Lakes Conference dual meets, 5-0 overall. They finished second in last weekend's Park Rapids Invitational where Wallace placed second in the 200 IM, third in the backstroke and third with her relay mates.
"When she was younger, she played other sports," Anderson said. "We were fortunate to snag her as a freshman. She could have gone a different direction. She was a die-hard volleyball player. Whatever she does, she does 100 percent. We were thrilled when she decided to come over our way."
Other notable efforts
• Kennedy Rusk-Britney Fletcher, girls tennis, scored No. 1 doubles wins against Alexandria, top-ranked St. Cloud Tech and Rocori.
• Katie Streiff, girls swimming, won the butterfly at the Park Rapids Invite and won one individual event and was on two winning relays vs. Sauk Rapids.
• Jamie Wallace, swimming, won one individual event and was on two winning relays vs. Sauk Rapids.
• Charlie Geraets, football, rushed for 204 yards and three TDs vs. Willmar.
• Courtney Russell, volleyball, pounded 18 kills vs. Sauk Rapids.
• Emma Smith, girls soccer, scored a hat trick vs. Willmar.