COLUMBIA — Kelly Adams said she is nervous about heading to the NAIA Swimming and Diving Championships for the first time. Fortunately, the Stephens College freshman has teammate Emily Younghouse to guide her along the way.
"I'm definitely kind of nervous, it's my first big college meet, and it's on a national level," Adams said.
The Stephens swim team is in its third season of NAIA eligibility. Younghouse, a junior, will be returning to the championships for a third time.
“It’s a pretty fast meet actually,” Younghouse said. “We’re NAIA, but there are some fast swimmers, Division I level that just went to other schools for different reasons.”
Younghouse, who has already qualified in the 500- and 1,650-meter freestyle races, said that she also hopes to qualify in the 200-meter freestyle race. Qualifying for the 200 requires a time of 2:06 or better.
"I'm about a second off," Younghouse said, "It's not a lot, but since it's a shorter event, it's harder to make up."
Adams has qualified to swim the 500- and 200-meter freestyle races.
"We haven't even had a chance to swim the 400 IM yet," Stars coach Laura Wacker said, "and I think that could be one of Kelly's best events."
Younghouse said that she appreciates the meets for the experience, and does not necessarily anticipate placing in the top tier.
Adams said that she feels confident about the meet, hoping to place in the top tier, thanks in large part to the leadership Younghouse has provided along the way.
"Since we're both distance swimmers, we have separate practices sometimes together, and we're always helping each other," Adams said. "She's told me all about nationals and how it's fun, but it's also serious. She's really gotten my confidence up and gotten me ready to swim in it."
Younghouse, whose nickname for Adams is "Skelly," said she recognizes her leadership role on the team.
"I would say she considers me a leader," Younghouse said of Adams, "It's a big compliment."
Wacker describes Younghouse as both confident and aggressive in the pool, traits she said she thinks make the junior a strong leader.
"She's very competitive, even in practice," Wacker said, "She encourages others, but is also looking over her shoulder at the other lanes to make sure she's still ahead of everyone."
Wacker also said that Adams has become a leader herself over the course of her freshman season.
"She doesn't talk a whole lot, Kelly is more a leading-through-action type," Wacker said.
Both girls got their start in swimming after they witnessed the success of older siblings. Younghouse, a Cape Girardeau native, said it was her brother, Jonathan Younghouse, who inspired her. Jonathan swam for the University of Texas in Austin from 1996-2000.
"My older brother swam competitively, so they just kind of put me in the pool, and I stuck with it," Younghouse said of her early days as a swimmer, "It kind of runs in the family."
Adams echoes similar sentiments regarding her swimming roots. She began swimming in her hometown of Bowling Green, Ky., at the age of 7.
"I really started because my sister swam, and she was really good, and I was jealous that she was doing so well and getting all these medals," Adams said.
Adams' sister, Jennifer Adams, is a senior on the swim team at Western Kentucky.
The Stephens team just had its "drop taper" meet, marking the mid-point of the season. This means that the team will slow down training about a week before their next meet, in order to mimic the type of tapering they will do before nationals.
"It will get our muscles ready, and tell us where we should be, and what we need to work on. It's a mid-season checkpoint before nationals," Adams said.
The girls will continue to train, but will also add alternate workouts to prepare for the second half of the season.
The 29th Annual Women's NAIA Swimming and Diving Championships will take place March 4-7, 2009 in St. Peters.
The Stars' next meet is the Washington University Invitational, Jan. 16-17 in St. Louis.