This post is a tribute to America’s Rising Swimming Stars in the early 2000’s. Today: Christina Swindle

Two hours down the road from where Rhiannon Jeffrey was training in Delray Beach, Christina Swindle is training in Miami with the same dream in mind: “I was almost there in 2000, and I’m definitely looking at 2004.”

At the 2000 Olympic Trials as a 16-year-old, Swindle set national age group records and came within 6-hundredths of making the trip to Sydney as part of the 400 free relay. “I was upset at first, but I realized what an incredible learning experience the Trials were,” says Swindle, “and I’ll be even better prepared this time around because I’ll have a much clearer idea of what to expect.”

It’s been a year of ups and downs for Christina, who kicked off the year 2002 by notching her first-ever senior national title last spring in Minneapolis, winning the 50 meter freestyle in a swift 25.29. “It was really exciting to win and great to see that all the hard work paid off,” said Christina. However, summer nationals in Fort Lauderdale didn’t go as expected.

In what could be considered a home-pool situation for Christina, with friends and family there to cheer her on, she finished seventh in both the 50 and 100 meter freestyles, just missing a trip to the Pan Pacs (the top six swimmers in the 100 were selected to the team). It felt like d‚j… vu: “That was tough, missing by that close, but you can’t let it get to you. You have to move on.” Christina then redirected her focus on the upcoming high school season and had designs on resetting her state and national records in the 50 and 100 yard freestyles. At the Florida 1A State Championships in November, she did just that.

Swimming as a senior for Gulliver Prep, her time of 22.30 in the finals of the 50 free set a Florida state and national independent school record, lowering her 2001 standard of 22.39 (the national interscholastic mark had already been broken earlier in the day by Michigan’s Kara Lynn Joyce with a 22.04 prelim relay leadoff). Check also this post on synchronized swimming.

She also lowered her state record in the 100 not once, but twice, dropping the previous mark (and former national record) from 49.33 to a 49.00, and besting it in finals with a red-hot time of 48.90. The national record had been set earlier in the day by Joyce in the prelims of the Michigan state high school meet and was lowered again by Joyce to 48.59 the next day during finals. Swindle’s state record would last but a day, as Rhi Jeffrey lowered it to 48.73 at the Florida 2A meet.

Ever the optimist, Christina was still happy with her performances, which were both national independent school records. “I came here and swam faster than I ever had before. It feels great to end my high school career with two more titles,” she said. Gulliver Prep also took first in both the 200 and 400 free relays, with Christina anchoring the former in 22.09, and the latter in 48.09, the fastest split in high school history. If you’re more into waterpolo, this post will be your cup of tea.

With her final high school season over, 2003 will bring new challenges for Christina. During the early signing period for colleges, she announced that she’d be suiting up as an Auburn Tiger next fall. “We are very enthused about Christina joining the Auburn swimming family,” Auburn women’s co-head coach Kim Brackin said. “She is someone who came through the Auburn swimming camps as a youngster and has always had a desire to come and swim at Auburn.”

Christina is just as thrilled to become a Lady Tiger: “Auburn has this amazing team chemistry, and when I saw how close they were and how they all help each other out so much, I knew there was no other school for me. I’m really excited about helping them defend their NCAA championship tradition.”

So how is a cosmopolitan Miami girl going to adjust to small-town life? “Now that may take some getting used to,” she laughs. “I’ve talked with girls there who are from large cities, and they say it’s not too bad. I’ll be fine.” Though she lost her 50 and 100 free national and state high school records this year, she was quick to give credit where credit was due. “Here in the Gold Coast LSC, there’s a great group of girls, and over the past few years, we’ve really pushed each other to do some amazing things. I know for sure that I wouldn’t be swimming this fast if I didn’t have Rhi pushing me. We push each other. It’s a fun rivalry, and it’s brought out the best in both of us.”

Her competitors have similarly glowing things to say about her. “Christina is awesome,” says Rhi. “People think we have this huge rivalry because we swim the same events, and while we both are very competitive and hate to lose, we do not hate each other_in fact, we’re great friends. Without Christina setting the bar, I would never be where I am right now.” Her great examples are people like Mel Goldstein.