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Shepard shines for Vinton-Union swimming

November 8, 2018
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Dysart Reporter

Union senior Arabella Shepard entered her final season of high school swimming with several personal and team goals in mind on her way to qualifying for the State Swimming Meet in Marshalltown on November 2 & 3.

"My goals going into this year were to break both of my 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke records one last time," Shepard said. "My motivation is my teammates. I have a great group of girls with me this season and they push me to be better. I just want to be the best I can, whether I get those times or not for them. These girls are wonderful people and it's amazing to be part of a team that respects you and you respect them."

The daughter of a club swim coach, Shepard first competed at the early age of five and hasn't look back ever since. In addition to competing in three of four years of high school, she has also competed with her dad's club in multiple events to further improve her swimming.

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Union senior Arabella Shepard competes in 100 yard butterfly pre-lims on Friday, Nov. 2. Shepard competes in a shared team between Union and Vinton schools, representing the team also in the 100 yard backstroke and 200 yard relay.

"My dad was a really good swimmer, so I followed in his footsteps," Shepard said. "I started swimming for club when I was five years old because I've always loved being in the water. My dad really worked with me from a young age. It all stems from him."

While skilled in most events, as a high school competitor she has done events to benefit her team this season. As the Union senior worked through her season towards her goal of returning to State again, her high school coach, Ashley Hesson, has watched a leader mold into being.

"Arabella is phenominal person to have on this team because she's a great asset in the pool and also a fantastic leader," Hesson said. "She has a great wisdom to share and does a great job doing so with the team. She's also a positive influence on the team to lift everyone up to go through the day."

Shepard qualified for the 100 yard butterfly and 100 yard backstroke individually, her second consecutive year doing so. While those were certainly goals for her, the team-oriented Shepard had another goal of involving her teams this year at State in the 200 yard relay

"I knew her goal this season was definitely to come back to State and do well," Hesson said. "Arabella gets the mentality that swimming is more of a team sport too, so she wanted to excel as a team. I asked her what she wanted to swim at a meet and she replied 'whatever you need me to be in.' Arabella put the team's goals over her own and competed in a relay for us. It's been excited to have a relay at State to have more group success."

Between her individual events and her relay, Shepard competed in three events, including finals for her individual events.

"Last year, my butterfly didn't go as well as I wanted it to, so I really pushed myself this season to be better, but I also put my backstroke on the backburner and I'm eager to see what happens," Shepard said.

On Saturday, Shepard finished sixth in the 100 butterfly finals and 13th in the backstroke finals, also helping her team to a 29th placing in the 200 yard relay. While the results may not quite have been what the senior wanted, competing with her teammates was what she desired to end her high school career.

"I have a lot of emotions with this being the end of my season," Shepard said. "I'm sad because I love the girls who came in this year. I love my team and am glad I got to compete with them. I'm proud of each and every one of them and hope they go out next year."

Despite the team being mostly made of Vinton students, Shepard and freshman Carlie Spore have made a home with the combined swim team. Carlie Hoppe has also stuck with the team despite being unable to swim this season due to rest time after a procedure.

"Carlie Spore is incredibly positive and a great teammate to all the girls," Hesson said. "She's a great cheerleader for the team. Everyone goes to her to get fired up. At the same time, she's not afraid to swim the big events and does what we ask."

Shepard may not have competed with the word Union across her suit and cap, but she hopes her classmates and fellow Knights will look at the success her team has accomplished and come to support the team whenever possible.

"Swimming is important and exciting because you get to watch a split second make such a difference," Shepard said. "If you look at the time comparisons in an event like the 100 butterfly, swimmers are tenths of a second apart. It's awesome to watch, so I hope more people come out to watch."

Hesson had nothing but positives about Shepard, having coached her over the past two seasons on the team and watching the team grow closer in 2018.

"She has an incredible work ethic," Hesson said. "Arabella is almost always the first in the pool and puts effort into her workouts. She's been swimming for a long time and her dad is a great coach for a club in Waterloo. As a senior, she knew what was expected of her and executed her goals well since day one."



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