Female Athlete of the Week: Hard work, dedication pay off for Warriors’ Sears

Abby Sears

STEPHENS CITY – Before the postseason started, Sherando’s Abby Sears began putting in some extra time in the pool with Sherando swim coach Joe Knight. On Saturday those extra workouts paid off in a big way for Sears.

The junior dropped over four seconds off her personal best time in the 100 breaststroke to finish seventh in the Region 4A West swim meet held at George Mason University. Not only did she make All-Region, but her time was good enough to make the state cut for this weekend’s Group 4A state meet in Christiansburg.

“I kinda wasn’t happy with my start or my pull out, but I kinda just went and I felt really good in my first 50 and 75,” Sears said. “And the last 25 I felt like my arms and legs were going to fall off.

“… When I touched the pad the first thing I did was look at my time and I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy. And I heard Joe (Knight) scream ‘who does that?’ I was so excited I forgot to shake hands, and well, I ran over to Joe and gave him a huge hug. I ran and gave my parents hugs, all my teammates were giving me hugs and congratulating me, which meant the world to me. I couldn’t stop shaking, my heart keep beating, I kept replaying what just happened, because I couldn’t believe it.”

Before the postseason started her top time was in the 1:18’s. She dropped a second off of that in the Conference 21 West meet, and then swam a 1:13.34 in the regional meet.

Knight said he couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw her time at regionals.

“At first I didn’t realize that was her time, because I was looking for like a 1:16, 1:15, and then lo and behold when I figured out that was lane seven and that was her time, we went crazy,” Knight said. “It was mayhem on the deck – it really was. Her folks were right there. They were ecstatic and my assistant coach and I, we were right there. We were just really, really pleased for her.”

Her success at the regional meet helped Sears earn The Northern Virginia Daily’s Female Athlete of the Week for the week of Feb. 8-14.

Knight said that after the regular season he began working with Sears at Valley Health in Winchester for 90 minutes-to-two-hours a day after the team practice. He said they focused on working on the little things to help her improve in the breaststroke, and that there were days she swam an additional 3,800-4,000 yards than the 2,800 she swam in team practice.

“I think that’s what did it for her,” Knight said. “All of her hard work and dedication, putting in the extra time and effort really paid dividends for her.”

Sears also had a little extra motivation. In the regular season she tied with Harrisonburg’s Andi Fox, but Sears lost to her at the conference meet. The two were side by side in the pool at regionals, and Sears beat Fox by over two seconds.

Sears said her competitiveness helps her in the pool.

“When (Fox) beat me at conference, I was really mad and upset that (Fox) beat me, and I just didn’t want her to beat me again,” Sears said. “I did not let her.”

Sears said she began swimming competitively at a young age, and swam for a local club team but stopped when she was in middle school because she didn’t have enough time to dedicate to it.

She said she decided to go out for Sherando’s swim team as a freshman, and said it was a little tough at first getting back into that competitive swim mode.

“I knew I used to be really good. Coming into high school knowing that I used to be really good and that I wasn’t that good anymore, kind of was hard for me knowing that I wanted to be that good again,” Sears said. “I just wanted to be better than what I was before. I wanted to find my love and passion for swimming again, because I felt like I had lost it.”

That passion and love is definitely back for Sears, and now she is in the state meet for the first time in her career.

Sears is also the only girl that advanced to states this year, and will be practicing with the boys team to get ready for the state meet. She said that it’s fun competing against the boys and they will push her to get better.

She said she’s looking forward to the state experience.

“I expect to really just have fun and go for the experience,” Sears said. “I’m going to drop time. Hopefully I’ll do my best. I’m going to the finals — that’s my goal. For me I just want to really have fun and take that experience and have that drive and push me for next year, and hopefully I’ll place higher next year than I did this year.”

No matter what happens this weekend, Sears said she knows that the regional meet will be something she’ll remember for a long time.

“I’ve replayed that race in my head over and over and over again,” Sears said. “I’ve watched the video probably 100 times. It was such a great race, and something that I will probably remember for the rest of my life.

“… That race was easily the best race of my career as a high schooler, and I hope to have many more races just like it.”

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