Headed to nationals / Columbus resident to compete in 400 individual medley

Club Olympia swim coach Jennifer Brinegar likes to train youth swimmers for all distances and strokes instead of specializing them in just one.

One of her swimmers, Rachel Sabotin, has the opportunity to nationally showcase four strokes in one race after qualifying for the 2018 Speedo Junior National Championships in California in the 400-meter individual medley.

The Columbus resident and Trinity Lutheran incoming junior qualified for the junior nationals, which starts on Tuesday and runs through Aug. 4 in Irvine, California, by winning the 400 IM at the Indiana Senior State Championships on Friday. Sabotin was seeded 13th going into the meet and moved up to the top seed after posting the fastest prelim time of 5 minutes, 0.21 seconds.

Sabotin dropped her time even more to win the final in 4:55.72, which was more than a second faster than the 4:57 she needed to qualify. The 16-year-old was one of only two athletes who qualified at the Indiana Senior State Championships that were younger than 17. 

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Sabotin was surprised with how fast she finished. 

“I didn’t really expect to get it in the 400 IM because I’m a distance freestyler,” she said. “That was kind of like a new event for me, so I was really excited, and I get to go to California, which is a bonus. It’s a whole new level of swimming now, the junior nationals.”

Brinegar, who’s been coaching Sabotin for about five years, wasn’t surprised at all. 

“I knew she had that in her,” Brinegar said. “It’s just been awhile to try to get it out of her and get her to have some confidence in herself to be able to just get up and race at that level.” 

Sabotin’s qualifying time also allowed her to compete in two bonus races while in California. Although her only actual junior nationals competition race will be on Wednesday, she also will compete in the 200 butterfly on Tuesday and an additional race on Thursday in Irvine. 

The 400 IM, which consists of the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle, requires Sabotin to be proficient in all four strokes. She said she’s improved in the butterfly the most over the past year. The butterfly can be hard on swimmers’ shoulders, and Brinegar has showed Sabotin ways to use her legs more to keep improve her endurance.

The butterfly stroke and the freestyle are Sabotin’s two strongest 400 IM strokes. Her weakest of the four is the breaststroke, which Sabotin also said Brinegar has helped her continue to improve. 

“She’s an amazing coach,” Sabotin said. “She went to the Olympics (in 1976), so she definitely knows the steps I need to take to get to the Olympics just like she did. She’s giving all of us those technique rules, tips and things that she’s learned.” 

Sabotin, a two-time high school state qualifier in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events, is planning on using her first appearance at the junior nationals as a chance to just soak in the overall experience and enjoy competing in an outdoor pool. She’s looking to get a strong start by getting as far ahead as she can in the butterfly and backstroke before reaching the breaststroke and finishing strong with the freestyle.

Brinegar said Sabotin has become good at working on her turns and starts, but she is looking for her to come back better in the freestyle. 

Brinegar described the freestyle as Sabotin’s best stroke, but said she tends to be a little tentative in the first 50 meters coming out of the breaststroke. Getting a chance to compete in the junior nationals will be good experience for Sabotin moving forward, Brinegar said. 

“I’m just really excited, Sabotin said. “It’s an outdoor meet. We don’t get a lot of those around here in Indiana. I love outdoor meets, so it’ll be so fun to be swimming in California with the best of the best kids.”   

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Name: Rachel Sabotin

Residence: Columbus

School: Trinity Lutheran

Year: Junior