West Allis — Kayla Martin will not let herself forget what happened at last season's WIAA sectional swimming meet.
As if she ever could.
Martin, then a junior with the West Allis Wave, missed qualifying for the state meet in the 100-yard butterfly by a mere 0.01 seconds, finishing in 1 minute, 1.53 seconds. As if that wasn't frustrating enough, she also fell short in the 100 backstroke by just over a half-second at 1:02.55.
Martin had rallied from an early-season back injury last year and had been swimming for only about a month before the sectional.
To come so far back in a short time, to stand at the edge of the goal of state and then come up short by such a small margin - not once, but twice - ate away at her during the off-season.
"I was so upset," she said. "I kept thinking, if I had only gotten back into the water a week sooner, I might have made it (to state)."
That memory stuck with her and continues to drive her this season.
"It has been a huge motivating factor," she said. "I've been doing double practices, and I have last year's state qualifying time (in the fly) posted on my bedroom door. I look at it every day."
Spurred by the near misses, Martin is enjoying a banner senior season for the combined Hale-Central team, finishing at or near the top in most meets.
At the Port Washington Invitational on Sept. 18 she won the 200 individual medley, took second in the fly and swam on two top-eight relay teams. She also won the 200 IM and fly in a Greater Metro Conference dual meet earlier that week against Wauwatosa East.
"Already this year Kayla has a couple of swims that are faster than the qualifying times for state," Wave head coach Brian Temke said.
She is clearly looking ahead to this year's sectional on Nov. 6, with an eye toward Madison.
"That has been my goal throughout high school, and missing it last year drives me," she said. "It is the one thing in high school swimming I haven't done yet."
Martin has accomplished a great deal in her career, which began in fifth grade.
"My father (Larry) was a diving coach for the Milwaukee Public Schools," she said. "I tried diving but it didn't work out. In fifth grade we moved from Milwaukee to West Allis and someone gave me a signup sheet for the New Berlin Swim Club. I went that night, they put me on the team and I have been swimming ever since."
She loves the atmosphere of a swimming race.
"I am so amped up for it," she said. "When they say, 'take your marks' and everybody is quiet, it's a special moment."
What is remarkable about her career is that she has overcome numerous injuries along the way.
"I just keep getting hurt," she said. "I have had two broken arms and last year's back injury, plus a shoulder problem since I was 12."
Her determination to keep coming back from injuries illustrates her strong work ethic and absolute dedication to swimming.
"From the time high school season started in August 2007 until now, she hasn't taken a real break from swimming, outside of the breaks typical of year-round club swimmers," Temke said. "That dedication has shown up in her performances in both high school and club seasons. She just keeps improving.
"Her work ethic is unmatched by anyone I have ever coached before. The coaching staff sometimes jokes that she makes us look like we know what we are doing. She puts in so much work and is so detail oriented and technically sound that we really don't need to do much other than make sure she is getting the right workouts both in and out of the pool."
Martin is also a leader on the Wave, which has been improving this year, even though it has been unable to move up in the tough GMC.
"We all push each other during practice," she said, "but we have fun doing it. We are competitive in a friendly way."
She is looking at several colleges, including the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, UW-La Crosse and Mankato State in Minnesota. Wherever she goes, one thing is certain: She will continue her swimming career.
"If I am not (swimming), I don't feel like me," she said.
Kayla Martin competed on four top-five teams in the Greater Metro Conference Relays last week at Wauwatosa East, where the Wave took sixth with 97 points. Martin's results:
300 BACKSTROKE: with Heather Garland, Rachel Schumitsch and Emily Woodard, third (3:20.06)
300 BUTTERFLY: with Olivia Harders, Schumitsch and Garland, third (3:22.51)
400 MEDLEY: with Schumitsch, Samantha Young and Harders, fifth (4:40.4)
200 MEDLEY: with Young, Schumitsch and Harders, fifth (2:07.5)
Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.
Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter Get the Newsletter!
- SportsShorts: May 20
- SportsShorts: May 16
- Falcons jump to fourth at Hale Invitational
- West Allis Hale's Schwab wins pair of events in Husky Invitational
- Whitnall, Hale girls unbeaten in conference softball
- West Allis Hale goes unbeaten in Cudahy Tournament
- OUR TAKE
- SportsShorts: May 7
- Central girls share gold in shot put
- West Allis Hale gets back on winning track