Lynden girls' swimmer Hannah Hollander isn't strong in a single stroke. She's skilled in all of them.
Many swimmers have their specialty stroke or event, but Lions' coach Linda Bode knows Hollander is much too valuable for her focus to be limited on only one of the 12 sanctioned high school swims.
"She's great. I just wish I had four more of her," Bode said in a phone interview. "She is the type of girl you want to have."
Technically, backstroke is Hollander's forte, at least last year it was. That's the event she qualified for the Class 2A State Swimming and Diving Championships in a year ago.
During the dual-meet season, though, Bode's senior captain does any and every event she's asked to do.
"In general she is a backer," Bode said. "But she can do distance, she can do sprints. She is an absolutely wonderful all-around swimmer. I put her in the fly, and she's one of my fastest in the event. She anchors whatever relay I put her in."
Hollander said her ability to be effective in a multitude of strokes and distances goes back to when she started swimming as a youth in Eastern Washington.
At 8 years old, she began swimming and soon after swam competitively.
"I have been swimming, really, all my life," Hollander said in a phone interview. "It's the only sport I've been successful at. I tried volleyball, but it didn't work out. I just love (swimming). When high school came around, I have swam more than I have before."
Hollander said she's been able to learn all the strokes because of how young she started.
Still, she admits there's room for improvement.
"I'm not amazing at one specific stroke," Hollander said. "I've always been okay at all the strokes. I really enjoy being a well-rounded swimmer, because (Bode) can plug me in where she has holes (in the lineup)."
To put into perspective how often Hollander has been used in different events, she said during her freshman year she didn't even train in the 100 backstroke - the individual event she qualified for state in as a sophomore and as a junior.
Each year of her career, Hollander has swum in early November at the King County Aquatic Center for the annual swimming and diving championships.
She swam in relays as a freshman, swam in relays and the backstroke as a sophomore and swam solely in the backstroke last year.
Being the goal setter she is, Hollander has set her sights on making state again as a senior. The feat would make Hollander a perfect 4 for 4 when it comes to reaching Washington state's high school swimming pinnacle event.
The chance for a state sweep wouldn't be an option this year if it wasn't for a bit of good fortune.
Last year's Lions didn't have the roster to post a strong enough state qualifying relay time, so Hollander needed to earn an individual event state-qualifying mark
She was unable to post that qualifying time and had to rely on a wildcard - an extra spot awarded to top swimmers who didn't make a qualifying mark so the state event field can be completed.
It was an agonizingly long 24-hour wait.
"It was actually kind of nerve racking," Hollander explained. "I was working one night, and I came outside, and on my car (my friend) had written 'state bound' on it. That was just super fun."
Her experience at state was unlike her previous two years. She was the only Lynden swimmer to qualify.
"It was just a few of us in a room," Hollander said. "Before, I was with all the other girls on the team. I never felt any pressure, like I'm not going to represent the school well. Linda definitely pushes me to do my best, and she makes it a fun experience."
Not only is Hollander hoping she'll go to state one last time, she's hoping she'll be able to bring teammates with her.
"This year there are a lot of new girls again," Hollander said. "We all get along great and enjoy each other. I think there's a lot of potential with the new girls. They're putting out good times."
A couple key swimmers for the Lions outside of Hollander are junior Shelly Umbaugh and Hannah's younger sister, freshman Sarah Hollander.
Bode said she expects both to give large contributions.
Besides taking on a leadership role as a captain and a senior, Hannah said she's excited to compete with Sarah.
"Me and my sister get along great," Hannah said. "We are both very competitive, and that's great because we push each other but are definitely teammates and not rivals. We want each other to be the best, and I know she is going to have an awesome time in high school swimmer. I wish I would have more years."
Hollander said she has an interest in swimming collegiately and is looking at Biola University, a christian school in suburban Los Angeles.
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.