Maureen Farrell has taken a slightly less arduous path to the top than most elite swimmers her age.
It usually takes years of dedication and practice to be able to compete at a national level.
Most of those competing in the Junior Championships West, which begin Saturday in San Jose, have endured endless summers of double workouts under the watchful eye of concerned coaches.
Farrell, a sophomore at Alemany High, swam with a local team for several seasons, but she didn’t connect with a nationally competitive team until she joined Canyons Aquatics a little less than two years ago.
“As far as swimming goes, she’s still pretty green,” Canyons Coach Bruce Patmos said. “But in a way that’s good. She’s taken to everything really naturally.”
Farrell adapted quickly. Within three months, she was qualifying for major meets in Southern California and was working out with the top swimmers at Canyons.
Her ascent continues to be meteoric. Last spring, she competed in individual events for the first time at the Spring Junior West meet in North Dakota. The twice-a-year meet brings together the best 19-and-under swimmers west of the Mississippi River who have not qualified for the U.S. Championships.
“I was a little bit nervous but it turned out to be a great experience,” Farrell said. “Each big meet is something new for me.”
In May, Farrell won the Southern Section Division III 100-yard backstroke title with a time of 58.18 seconds, good enough for All-American honors. She finished second in the 100 freestyle.
Now she is less than a second away from qualifying in the 100-meter backstroke for the U.S. Championships, Aug. 11-15 in Clovis, Calif. Rested and shaved, Farrell has a good chance at beating the standard of 1:05.99. If she doesn’t qualify, Farrell will compete in relays at Clovis.
“It’s all happening pretty fast,” Farrell said. “But it’s been a really good summer.”
Farrell, who turned 15 in June, was urged to join Canyons by Molly Feeney, a teammate at Alemany. Although Feeney is a solid swimmer in her own right--qualifying for two Division III consolation finals in May--Farrell has eclipsed Feeney’s accomplishments.
“We are good friends, but we don’t talk about that much,” Farrell said.
Part of her success is owed to increased dedication. Farrell missed the Janet Evans Invitational last week because of a family reunion in Lake Arrowhead, but she still found a nearby pool to do her daily workout.
“The coach wrote something up for her and she stuck to it,” said Mary Farrell, Maureen’s mother. “The past two years, she’s become so focused. It’s incredible.”
Farrell is part of a group of high school swimmers that have emerged from Canyons in the last year.
Like Farrell, Hart senior Ryan Parmenter is close to qualifying for the U.S. Nationals for the first time. He will compete in the 100 and 200 freestyles in San Jose.
If both make it, they will join Hart senior Anthony Ervin and Cleveland sophomore Amy Jones as qualifiers for the nationals from Canyons. Ervin won two events at the last junior meet in North Dakota and has qualified in the 50 and 100 freestyle. Hampered by a shoulder injury this summer, Ervin will swim in San Jose to get ready for the national meet.
Jones, who set City Section records in the 50 and 100 yard freestyles in May, won’t compete in the junior meet because of summer school.
Farrell, whose best events are the backstrokes, may eventually join Ervin and Jones in the sprint events.
“I think the 50 and 100 [freestyle] will be the next ones for her,” Patmos said. “Since she’s started she’s been very comfortable on her back, but she’s good enough in the other strokes too.
“Since she started later, she’s less likely to burn out. She could wind up going a lot farther.”