One teenage girl from Edmond is aiming high when it comes to her swimming career. Now internationally ranked in the top 30 and an All-American for three years, Samantha "Sam" Woodward is striving to participate in the 2008 or 2012 Olympics.
Woodward has caught media interest throughout Oklahoma and the entire nation for her astonishing swimming accomplishments. With her help, the Edmond Memorial High School swim team won their second straight state championship this past February. Steve Riggs, head swim coach and "Coach of the Year," was proud of his team, and especially proud of Woodward.
"Being a swimmer in Edmond is like being part of a legacy," said Woodward. "I want to uphold the tradition of excellence and keep the pride going."
Starting in third grade, Woodward received private coaching as a part of the Kerr McGee Swim Club, which recently became the Chesapeake Swim Club.
With the high school swimming season over, Woodward began focusing on training for the USA Swimming Spring Nationals that took place at the end of March through the beginning of April in Long Island, New York. She placed second in the 100 fly and won first place in the 50-yard free stroke, beating three former Olympic competitors in the event. This is Woodward's first Senior National title.
In June she will be traveling in July to a swim meet in Brazil with the United States Pan-American team. "I'm so excited to go there," said Woodward. "My parents are coming too, but they won't be able to contact me at all during the meet." She will also fly to Washington D.C. to join 19 other women and 20 men who will represent the US in this International meet in Rio de Janeiro. At 16-years-old, she is the youngest member of the team.
However, like any other teenager Woodward is longing for some summertime fun with her friends. "I'm really looking forward to getting out on the lake and wakeboarding," Woodward said with a smile. "It's my next most favorite thing to do beside swimming."
But, this upbeat, hardworking young woman can't hang out for long. "The summer is the hardest season for training," said Woodward. "It's when school's out so I really have to focus on getting better with the extra hours I have during the day."
Currently, her daily regimen is nothing to be desired. "I usually get up and practice from 5:30 a.m. to 7 a.m.," said Woodward. "Then it's off to school and then practice again from 3:45 p.m. to 5:45 p.m."
Much of the time Woodward can be found swimming seven days a week. "But I try to stick to six days a week," she said. "Not much gets in the way of my practice schedule," she said. "Sometimes other things come up, like my coach says I can get ready for prom after I finish my Saturday workout."
The good part about being young and in shape is she can afford a few slips from her nutritional diet. "I eat a lot of junk food," she laughed. "I'm not going to lie."
And though some high school students are filled with thoughts of hanging out with friends, the new gift of a driver's license and dating, Woodward already has her eyes set on college prospects and the degree she's aiming for. "I get letters all the time from colleges," said Woodward. "Some come from around the nation and I actually get a lot from random Oklahoma colleges."
Woodward mentioned that it's frustrating for her and her fellow swimmers who are looking at colleges in Oklahoma because no Oklahoma college currently offers a swim program.
She is, however, excited to say that among the correspondence she has received letters and emails from Purdue, Tennessee, Southern Methodist University, the University of Southern California, Texas and UCLA. "I'm leaning toward getting a degree in Engineering," she said. "Probably Bio-Medical or Genetic Engineering. I'd eventually like to contribute something positive to the world."
Woodward shouldn't have a problem getting into the university of her choice as she continues to excel academically with a 4.0 grade point. Out of the pool, she is an officer for the National Honor Society and is an acolyte at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Oklahoma City.
"I have a lot of people to thank for how far I've gotten," she said. "Mostly my Chesapeake Swim Club coach, John Brown, for spending countless hours with me at the pool. My friends have also supported me all the way and have really helped me stay centered and focused. I wouldn't have stuck with it if it wasn't for them."
Woodward's mom, who often has to taxi her to events, is another one of those support people. And though the teen still sometimes needs a parental signature or a chaperone for out-of-town swim meets, underneath, she keeps a mature stature, not only as an athlete, but as a young woman as well.
"It's a lot of pressure racing for the U.S.," said Woodward. "Hopefully I'll remember the fun stuff, and not all the hard training when I'm an adult."
Whether she competes in the Olympics in 2008 or 2012, Edmond will be watching and cheering for Samantha Woodward.