Effingham Daily News
Avery Braunecker doesn’t let the fact that Effingham High School has no official swim team stop her from competing in the sport she loves.
The freshman trains at the Kluthe pool in Effingham’s Evergreen Park during the warm months and at a pool in Mattoon, where her mother coaches a team, in the colder months.
Braunecker trains every single day, whether she’s in the pool or not, pushing herself to become the best swimmer in the state of Illinois.
“If I’m not swimming every day, I’m working out everyday,” she said. “I don’t have an offseason.”
All that training paid off for Braunecker this season, as she qualified for the state finals on Saturday. Qualifying in two events, she finished in second place in both the 50-yard freestyle and the 100-yard freestyle swims.
Her time of 23.09 seconds in the 50 was a new personal best, as was her time of 50.97 seconds in the 100.
Glenbrook South High School’s Olivia Smoliga beat Braunecker in the 50, while Downers Grove North’s Gabby Sims outpaced her in the 100.
Braunecker said that she expected to do well at the meet in the 100-yard swim, but her 50-yard time was a nice addition to a good day.
“The 50 came as kind of a surprise,” she said. “But I was expecting first or second in the 100.”
Now, Braunecker has already set her sights on next year, when she expects herself to make it back to state and win both events.
“I want to break Olivia’s record in the 50, and the national record in the 100,” she said. “Breaking the national record would be my ultimate goal.”
Braunecker also has her sights set on the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. She had her 2012 London dreams put on hold before the Olympic trials began, missing the cut by 16/100ths of a second.
“(The Olympics) have always been a dream of mine,” she said. “When I was younger, I always wanted to be ‘America’s Sweetheart.’”
Unfortunately for Braunecker, Missy Franklin captured that title for Team USA swimmers in London, winning four gold medals and a bronze.
When the 2016 Olympic trials are set to begin, Braunecker said she’ll have stronger legs than she had this year, something she feels cost her a chance to qualify for the trials.
“I’ve been working extremely hard on my legs and reaction time,” she said. “I’m doing everything it takes to make the team in four years.”
But, in the short term, she has some business to take care of in the state of Illinois. Smoliga is a senior this year, so Braunecker will be the top returning 50-yard freestyle swimmer in the state.
Sims is only a junior, but Braunecker thinks that she’ll be able to emerge victorious after another year of training.
“I definitely think I can win both,” she said.