Full Circle: Local trio to finish swimming careers at MAC meet

Columbus North graduate and Ball State senior Betsy King competes for Ball State.

Submitted photo

In the early 2010s, Betsy King, Olivia Morlok and Rachel Sabotin began swimming together in Columbus as part of Donner Swim Club.

King and Morlok went on to have standout high school careers at Columbus North, while Sabotin was a four-time state qualifier at Trinity Lutheran.

The trio’s path took them to three different colleges, all in the Mid-American Conference, in 2020. Four years later, they’ll put the finishing touches on their competitive swimming careers when they compete in this week’s MAC Championships in Athens, Ohio.

“I think it’s great that Olivia and Rachel will be there, too,” said King, a Ball State senior. “We’ve pretty much grown up together in the sport of swimming, and it’s great that we’re going to finish out at the same time.”

Focusing on swimming

Morlok was a three-sport star at North. She was a standout runner, helping lead the Bull Dogs to four consecutive state finals appearances in cross-country and qualifying for state in the 3,200 meters in track. She was the overall 2019-20 Republic Female Athlete of the Year.

Olivia Morlok

But when it came time to pick a sport for college, Morlok settled on swimming and picked Ohio University.

“It was a big change switching to full-time swimming,” Morlok said. “The 20 hours (of practice) a week takes a toll on you. It’s physically and mentally challenging, but definitely worth it in the end.”

A distance swimmer, Morlok’s best event has been the 1,650-yard freestyle, also known as the mile. She finished eighth in the MAC as a freshman in the event.

“It’s definitely been anything other than I expected, but in the best way possible,” Morlok said. “I have big goals for myself coming into college, and a lot of the performance goals, I haven’t met. But I’ve had a lot of fun with the relationships I’ve made and the experiences I’ve been given here.”

Morlok will swim the exhibition 500 freestyle on Thursday, 400 individual medley on Friday and the 1,650 freestyle on Saturday. She figures the host Bobcats can compete with Miami (Ohio) and Akron for the team title.

“This is definitely the strongest our team has ever been,” Morlok said. “We have a chance to do something special this weekend, and you can just feel the energy and the cohesiveness to do our best.”

The sprinter

King was a standout sprinter at North, where she was a three-time state qualifier. She hasn’t had quite that success at Ball State, but is looking to finish on a high note.

“Last year at conference, I went best times in all my events, and that hadn’t happened since my junior year in high school,” King said. “My coaches and my teammates really helped me get to that. I’m really excited to see what’s going to happen this week and how I finish out.”

Betsy King

At the MAC meet, King will swim the 50 freestyle on Thursday, 200 freestyle on Friday and 100 freestyle on Saturday.

“This season, there’s been a lot of ups and downs, but that tends to happen,” King said. “We’ve been tapering the last few weeks, so I’m excited to see what the hard work from this season and a little bit of rest will do for me.”

King isn’t going into the meet with any high expectations.

”It would be nice to go after my personal-best times,” King said. “Since it’s going to be my last time at the pool, I just want to have fun with my teammates and do the best that I can. I’m torn because I’m very excited to be done with the sport of swimming, but I’m also sad because I’ve had a lot of fond memories.”

Battling adversity

Sabotin has had a roller coaster career at Akron. After finishing fourth in the MAC in the 200 IM and fifth in the 200 butterfly as a freshman, she missed most of her sophomore year with COVID.

Then, at the end of her sophomore year, she had surgery to have her gall bladder removed. She was out of the pool for six months until the beginning of junior season.

“I’ve really been blessed with the opportunities and the support that I’ve had,” Sabotin said. “If you’d have asked me my freshmen year how it would have panned out, it is so much different, so many curveballs thrown at me from different directions. But I’ve had support from my family and my team. I’m so blessed to have that support system at Akron and also from my family.”

Columbus native, Trinity Lutheran graduate and Akron senior Rachel Sabotin swims the butterfly portion of the 400-yard individual medley for Akron.

Submitted photo

Sabotin got stronger by the end of last season and finished fourth in the 200 IM, fifth in the 200 butterfly and eighth in the 100 butterfly at the MAC meet. She’s poised to do even better this week.

“This has been the first year since my freshman year that I’ve had a good block of training,” Sabotin said. “It’s been good to come back from illness and injury. Finally, this summer, I was cleared to do everything out of the pool as far as lifting, so I really had a good summer of training.”

Rachel Sabotin

If things go really well for Sabotin this week, the meet might not be her last. She is hoping to earn NCAA cuts in at least one of her events.

“It is definitely a goal of mine in the back of my head when I’m training,” Sabotin said. “I just have to see what God has planned for me. Whatever happens is going to happen, but it’s definitely something I’ve been training for.”

While King swam with Donner for 14 years and Morlok swam with both Donner and Club Olympia during her time at North, Sabotin switched to Club Olympia when she was in high school.

“Swimming with Betsy and Olivia growing up, it’s kind of all come full circle,” Sabotin said. “I think this meet is going to be really fun. I have had a good year this year, and it’s more the results I was looking for my freshman year. But it’s not about the results. I think about the bonds that I’ve made with my teammates, the experiences that I’ve had and how that will help me in my life moving forward.”

The future

In addition to their success in the pool, King, Morlok and Sabotin all have been Academic All-MAC honorees during their college careers.

Sabotin graduated from Akron in three years with a degree in speech language pathology. She is in the first year of a two-year masters program, and next year will be student assistant in speech pathology at University of Florida.

King and Morlok are both going into nursing. Morlok will have another year left at Ohio, while King will have two or three semesters left at Ball State.

Because the NCAA granted COVID-Era athletes an extra year of eligibility, all three had a chance to compete again next year. But they are ready to get on with their next chapters of life.

“I’ve had a pretty amazing experience here,” King said. “The coaching staff has been pretty amazing. The team is great. I’ve talked about it, but I think right now, I really just want to focus on my education and spend a year in college without having to worry about athletics and just enjoying life.”

“I feel like the perfect word to describe it is bittersweet,” Morlok added. “Swimming has been a big part of my life, and I have a lot of great memories with the sport. But at the same time, it’s time to move on and see what else there is.”