Hailey Grotte likes to keep busy.
How busy? Well, when asked what she likes to do in her very limited free time, the La Center High senior said: “I like to take naps.”
The rest of the state could not sleep on Grotte this year after she claimed her first state championships at the 2A/1A state swim meet in Federal Way last month.
Grotte won the 50-yard freestyle and 100 freestyle titles, leading her to be selected as The Columbian’s All-Region girls swimmer of the year for a third consecutive year.
While pleased with her times at state, Grotte admitted something was missing this year – her rival, Eleanor Beers of North Kitsap.
The two-time defending state champion in the 50 and 100 free event – Grotte finished second to her in both events both years – decided against swimming for her high school to focus on making Olympic Trial time cuts.
“Not having her to compete against was interesting because I’ve always had her right there, and it’s been so closer it made me swim faster,”Grotte said. “So going into state, I knew there was still going to be competition – especially in the 50; that was a close race. But I just feel like it would have been closer or I could have gone faster if Eleanor was there.”
Grotte has never been one to shy away from competition. She got her start in swimming at age 4 for Kids Club in Salmon Creek. By the third grade, she helped form a team at Kids Club to compete against other clubs in the region.
From there, she moved to the Northwest Blue Crush Aquatic Club in Portland, where between the short-course and long-course season, Grotte practices and competes practically year-round.
When it came time to swim in high school, Grotte helped launch the La Center High School program.
Joining up with the Hockinson High team, Grotte was La Center’s lone swimmer her freshman year. That became three swimmers in her sophomore year and eventually five this year, as the Wildcats advanced to state in two relays.
La Center’s 200-free relay of Grotte, Bryanna Ungs and freshmen Riley Bingham and Sabrina Joner reached the consolation finals, eventually finishing 14th.
“I think the girls’ adrenaline really kicked in, especially the freshmen, and we were able to do what we hoped to, which was to swim on Saturday,” Grotte said. “I was super proud of them, and we were all proud of each other.”
Despite that heavy time commitment of swimming, which leaves her little free time, Grotte couldn’t imagine being away from the pool for long.
“I don’t know; I just love it,” she said. “Sure, there are some days when you just don’t feel like going to practice. But my team helps me with that. I love them. They’re my best friends, and I like being with them. We definitely lift each other up.”
Grotte already has plans for her next challenge: collegiate swimming. Last month, she signed a letter of intent to swim at Washington State.
“We set up a visit in March or April, and I loved the campus, loved the girls on team,” Grotte said. “It felt like it was the right fit for me. I think I verbally committed like a week after the visit. I was like ‘This is where I want to go. This is where I want to be.’ I’m super excited about it.”
Rest of the All-Region girls swimming team
Ashlyn Burgener, Camas
Senior placed 12th at state in the 50 freestyle and swam on two relays at state.
Annette Chang, Union
Freshman placed 13th at 4A state meet in the 50 freestyle and 14th in the 100 freestyle.
Campbell Deringer, Camas
Freshman placed 11th at 4A state meet in the 100 breaststroke and swam on two relays.
Paeton Lesser, Camas
Junior was the 4A GSHL swimmer of the year and placed 14th at state in the 200 IM, 12th in 100 free.
Irelyne McGee, Camas
Senior was the 4A bi-district champion in diving and placed fifth overall at state meet.
Bryanna Ungs, La Center
The junior was the 2A/1A 100 breaststroke state champion and placed fourth in the 200 individual medley.