By Bob San
Another trip to the state swimming meet, another all-state honor for Maple Grove sophomore standout Erin Buck.
At last Saturday’s state meet at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center, Buck took fourth place in the 100 backstroke championship heat and swam an All-American consideration time of 56.60 in the process. She just missed the championship heat in the 100 freestyle but roared back to win the consolation final in a time of 51.90.
In the 400 free relay, Buck teamed up with Kristina Rudin, Brooke Soller and Holly Hebzynski to capture 11th place in 3:33.86. Brooke Soller took 23rd in the 500 freestyle.
Even though she is only a sophomore, this year’s state meet is Buck’s fourth. And each time, she took home all-state honors.
“In seventh grade, I swam on the 400 free relay with Elaine Boosalis, Lauren Kessler and Tess Behrens. We broke the school record and took fourth in the state,” Buck recalled.
In eighth grade, Buck earned all-state in the 200 free relay along with Boosalis, Katie Youngdahl and Rudin. They had to win a memorable swim-off to earn a spot in the final. Then last year she was in the top eight in both the 100 back and 100 free.
It is unusual for a seventh grader to crack the talented Maple Grove varsity roster, let alone swim in a state meet. But Buck, who started swimming in fourth grade, showed at a young age that she belonged.
Asked if he knew Buck was exceptional when he first saw her, Crimson coach Matt Schoen said, “Every kid has their own level of talent. It’s all about how focused, competitive and driven they are. Erin is extremely talented and is a fierce competitor. She loves to race and thrives on competition. In these really big races, she delivers.”
Buck said it was a little intimidating in seventh grade to join the varsity, but she also appreciated the opportunity to practice and learn from the older swimmers.
“It was an experience,” Buck said. “It was great to meet all the fast girls and swim against good competition. The older girls really helped me with all the big meets and keeping me focused and fired up.”
Behrens, who won the state 100 backstroke title in 2009 and is now the reigning Big 10 champion in the 100 and 200 backstroke for the U of M, is one of the girls who took Buck aside and gave her advice.
“Tess was and still is a big role model for me,” Buck said. “I remember in seventh grade, she came up to me after a meet, sat me down and said, ‘I give you permission to break any of my records.’ That meant a lot to me.”
Buck has used those words as motivation to work hard and strive for the best times. She is also realizing that even though she is just a sophomore, she is one of the most experienced swimmers on the squad and is someone the younger swimmers look up to for advice.
“Actually it’s really fun to be able to share your experience with some of the younger girls who are coming into the big meets and who haven’t done it before,” Buck said. “It’s fun to be able to help them with what they need.”
Buck swims year round and plans to continue training with the New Hope Crystal Plymouth Swim Club during the high school off-season.