SEYMOUR — When she was 10 years old, Rachel Sabotin remembers participating in a youth triathlon and enjoying one part more than the others.
“I really liked the swimming part,” the Columbus resident said. “After, I told my mom, ‘I wish I could just do the swimming part.’”
Her mother quickly informed her she could swim competitively, and the Trinity Lutheran sophomore has made waves ever since.
Friday night, Sabotin will begin competition in the Girls Swimming State Finals at IUPUI’s Indiana University Natatorium. The top eight in each event qualify for Saturday’s championship finals, and the next eight make the consolation finals.
This is the second time in as many years Sabotin has competed at state. She will compete in the 200- and 500-yard freestyles, again.
Sabotin broke the 200 freestyle sectional record last weekend at Columbus North.
“My big goals are to get on the podium in both events, represent Trinity and see where I can go from there,” Sabotin said. “It’s cool to represent my faith and school because the Lord has blessed me to be able to have this swim team, even though it’s just me. But hopefully we will have more in the years to come.”
Sabotin said she was thrilled when she qualified for the state meet.
“It was exciting,” she said. “I’m a lot less nervous because I have one under my belt.”
Sabotin finished 10th in the 500 freestyle and 17th in the 200 freestyle in last year’s state finals. The experience from last year is something she feels she will be able to build off of when she takes the platform before diving in.
“Just being there and knowing the energy — because it’s intense — and knowing the competition is helpful,” she said. “Knowing that I’ve done this before and knowing I can do it again.”
Sabotin goes through a pre-meet routine of clearing her mind and putting on headphones to listen to her favorite music.
“I got through my race and how I want to swim it and narrow things down and block things out,” she said.
Listening to music also helps her bring things into focus before a race.
“I listen to Christian rap music because it’s upbeat and has a good message,” Sabotin said.
Sabotin also will have a secret weapon on her side — her coach Jennifer Brinegar.
“She has a lot of experience in swimming,” Sabotin said. “She knows what it’s all about and prepares me for it.”
Brinegar represented the United States in the 1976 Olympics when she was 15 in Montreal, Canada, by swimming in the 200-meter freestyle and the 400 freestyle relay. Sabotin said being trained by an Olympian is a unique experience because she knows her coach has reached the pinnacle of the sport.
“It’s pretty cool and sometimes you forget, but it’s so cool,” Sabotin said. “She’s my coach, and she’s giving me the things that got her to the Olympics.”
Brinegar said she feels confident in Sabotin’s ability going into the meet.
“I think she looks really good going in,” Brinegar said. “I hope she feels good on Friday and does the times she wants to do and makes that top eight.”
Brinegar said preparing Sabotin for the meet does not require much because she is a great student of the sport.
“She is an extremely tough competitor and knows what she needs to do,” Brinegar said, adding they work on everything year-round. “She doesn’t need much guidance, but I will tell her to relax and minimize any nervous energy.”
Brinegar said Sabotin’s work ethic and drive to be the best she can is the secret behind her success.
“I can’t even remember when she has missed a practice,” Brinegar said. “She is extremely tough, loves to win and is a great competitor.”
Sabotin had a less technical answer when asked the secret to her success. She relies on the experience from her coach, foundation of her faith and support system from her parents.
“My coach has given me all the tools to succeed and the Lord has given me this gift and I can shine and have fun with it,” she said, adding her family has also provided a support system that brings her a long way in the sport. “They’re so great to take me to all the practices, are at all the meets and give me the advice I need to get better.”