Delaney Harrison had some big shoes to fill in her freshman season as a swimmer at Sequoyah, but she had no problem taking over as the Lady Chiefs’ new top sprinter.
Harrison knew she would have to replace last year’s Cherokee Tribune Swimmer of the Year, Kristina Friedrichs, but she went beyond that this season. Harrison finished second in the state in both the 50- and 100-yard freestyles to earn her own Cherokee Tribune Girls Swimmer of the Year honor.
“I went to state knowing I had a good chance of getting top-three,” Harrison said. “I didn’t know how I would do, or who was going to be there, but I felt like I was going to be able to do pretty well.”
Harrison may have been new to high school swimming, but she was ready for the big stage all season. She showed that at the county meet, when she eclipsed Friedrichs’ county records in both freestyle events, after they had stood for just one season.
“Our school records are faster than that, after what Kristina did last year at state,” Harrison said. “I looked at them and knew I could go that fast. Going into the county meet, I just wanted to do my best and see what comes out of it.”
Harrison was equally unfazed in the state meet at Georgia Tech, despite facing some of the toughest competition of her young career.
She qualified fourth for the finals in the 50 freestyle before dropping .17 seconds to move up two posts in the final. She qualified ninth for the 100 freestyle final, but she again dropped .14 seconds to move up seven spots.
“I swam with some of them in club meets, but I hadn’t seen them in high school swimming, though,” Harrison said. “I was in a heat with some of the fastest girls in the country. I knew I was one of the youngest girls in my heat, so i just wanted to go fast and show I belonged.”
Harrison’s sudden ascent was even more impressive considering she did not specialize in the sprints until midway through the season. Before that, she competed in the longer freestyle events.
While Harrison said she still swims longer distances to train, she had to adjust to her new races.
“Up until the middle of the season, I was considered a distance swimmer,” she said. “It’s two different ballgames. It’s so technical. It’s stressful, because the 50 is just like a start and a turn. There’s no time for error. I train distance.”
In shorter races, Harrison said she does not have much time to look around and see how her competitors are doing. If she does see another swimmer, she said it motivates her, but most of her drive comes from within.
“When I see someone beside me is slightly ahead of me, I always try to push myself,” Harrison said. “I’m a really competitive person. I don’t like to be beat. I’ll occasionally pay attention to the other lanes if I notice someone, but it’s usually myself saying I need to go faster.”
Harrison is already pushing herself for her sophomore season, too.
Apalachee’s Alexis Doherty, who beat Harrison by .79 seconds in the 50 freestyle and 1.95 seconds in the 100 freestyle, will be off to college. With that final hurdle removed, Harrison has already set her sights on occupying those top spots next year.
“Next year, I’m motivated to win,” Harrison said. “I want to do better. The girl who beat me will be gone at Indiana, so I need to take her place.”