Versatile Ferguson finishes strong

Sherando swimmer Laura Ferguson finished ninth in the 50 freestyle in the Group 4A state meet to cap off a strong senior season. Rich Cooley/Daily file

STEPHENS CITY — Laura Ferguson has always been strong in the 50-yard freestyle, but this year she showed that she can excel in many different races.

The Sherando senior qualified for the Group 4A state swim meet in three different events. Ferguson was able to qualify for the state meet in the 50 free in her first meet of the season, which allowed her to try other events.

“She’s known as a sprinter in the area, the 50 free, the 100 free,” Sherando coach Joe Knight said. “We wanted to show that she’s just not a one-dimensional swimmer. She’s actually a pretty good butterflyer. She’s an excellent backstroke swimmer.”

Swimmers are only allowed to race in two individual events at the state meet, so Ferguson chose to swim in the 50 free and the 100 free. Ferguson finished ninth in the 50 free at the state meet and 12th in the 100 free.

Ferguson, The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2015 Female Swimmer of the Year, also swam the 200 free and 500 free once during the season. Her time in the 200 free was the fastest in the area, while the 500 free was third-fastest behind two of her teammates.

She may have attempted to do more events, but a knee injury and asthma slowed her down.

Ferguson had an asthma attack during the 500 free, and swam the second half of it on her back, doing the backstroke to help her breathe. She said it was scary, but at the same time she was glad she swam the event.

“It was tough. I’m glad that I did it, because now I know in my heart that I can achieve it,” Ferguson said. “So, that’s why whenever I go to the gym I make sure I do the 500. I’m like, ‘OK, that’s not that bad, now do another one.'”

Ferguson said the doctors don’t know exactly what’s wrong with her knee, but it will sometimes lock up on her, and it keeps her from being able to swim the breaststroke.

She said she just tries not to think about the pain too much, and swim her way through it.

One of Ferguson’s biggest achievements this season was swimming the 100 backstroke. The first time Ferguson swam the 100 backstroke she had a time of 1:07.69, and at the Region 4A North meet she qualified for states with a 1:03.90. She finished sixth in the event.

“I was happy with that,” Ferguson said. “Doing the 100 back, I always think way too much. Whenever I think too much, I start losing track of where I am, and I shouldn’t be doing that. I like to just think — ‘no mind.'”

In the 50 free, Ferguson saved her best for last as she swam a season-best 25.82 in the preliminaries, but came up just short of qualifying for the finals by .02 seconds. She won her finals heat to finish ninth.

Her best performance came in the Region 4A North meet, where she placed sixth in the 100 back and fifth in the 100 free. She was also second in the Conference 21 meet in the 50 free and fourth in the 100 free.

“I think the true Laura came out in the conference [and regional] meets,” Knight said. “[In regionals] those events were close together too, so for her to come back and then swim that backstroke time was just a big accomplishment in that meet. She did everything else that I could possibly ask of a high school athlete. Her spirit throughout the year was good. She’s a team player. She worked very hard on our relay teams as well.”

Knight said one of the biggest keys to Ferguson’s success is that she always remembers to do the little things.

“You can tell that her intensity builds through the warm-up before a meet. And by the time her event is called and she steps up on the block when the starter issues the command to take your mark, she’s down and set and ready to go,” Knight said. “She’s the first one down and then she explodes off the blocks. Her start is excellent and that is something that she has worked on and worked on over the years. She recognizes, especially the sprint races — the 50 and the 100 — how important the start is and how important the turns are. So she’s the type of athlete that doesn’t neglect the little things, and that’s what makes her the swimmer she is.”

Ferguson said that she was very happy with how the team did, especially with so many young swimmers.

She plans on going to either James Madison University or George Mason University and major in criminology. Ferguson said that she was very happy with her four years at Sherando, especially being on the swim team.

“There’s so many emotions,” Ferguson said. “Everything’s happened. I feel like it’s went by so quickly. When I first got here I literally was the worst swimmer, and then I started progressing and becoming better.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com