Despite late start, Agates' Mayfield excels
When Two Harbors-Silver Bay senior swimmer Allie Mayfield stood on the starting block at the Minnesota Class A swim meet Friday, it was the culmination of years of hard work and dedication to her sport.
"The most awesome part of that whole day was when I looked up at the scoreboard and I (saw a) video of me," Allie said. "I thought that was the most cool thing that ever happened to me."
Unlike many of her competitors in the 500 yard freestyle race, however, Allie hasn't been swimming since she was a little girl, she only started swimming as an eighth-grader. In fact, she wasn't much of a swimmer at all when her mom, Heather Mayfield, started as an assistant coach for the Agates. Allie was in seventh grade at the time and her mother said Allie would come to all the practices and meets to cheer the team on, but politely refused when her mother asked her if she wanted to join the team.
"I could barely even swim without getting water in my nose and that was enough to make me not want to swim," Allie said.
After watching the other girls compete, Allie said she realized how much fun the swimming could be as a sport and decided to join the junior varsity team the following year. She worked hard her first season, but, perhaps not surprisingly, she didn't see a ton of success that first season.
"I was the slowest swimmer that we had, but I really enjoyed it and I think that I just wanted to get better so I would enjoy it more," Allie said.
Her solution? She would join the North Shore Swim Club in Duluth and swim year-round to improve and become more competitive. Through the summer heat and winter snow, every day her family, and later she, would make the 35-40 minute drive to Duluth so she could swim at the University of Minnesota Duluth pool to become a stronger, more efficient swimmer.
"I think if she had stuck with just doing the high school season, she probably wouldn't have gotten nearly as far as she did," Heather said. "Since she did find that interest in it and went running with it definitely helped."
Improve she did, winning the Section 7A championship in the 500 freestyle and qualifying for the state meet in both her sophomore and junior years. She didn't win the section championship this year, but she did qualify and this year she took a step few expected. She not only qualified, she progressed through the preliminaries and into the finals, finishing 13th in the state in Class A with a time of five minutes, 21.63 seconds. In the preliminary round, Allie set new Two Harbors' records in the 500 freestyle with a time of 5:19.36 seconds and in the 200 yard individual medley with a time of 2:18.12.
"Just because of putting in the work and going to practice everyday I just saw the results actually happen in front of me," Allie said. "It made me realize that if I work hard, I'm going to get better and I'm going to get really fast really quick. "
Allie has poured the same dedication she has for swimming into her school work, as well. She is regularly on the honor roll at Two Harbors and has been recognized as academic all-state each year. Last year, Allie even took three classes at Lake Superior College in Duluth so she could focus her senior year on her favorite subjects, math and science.
"School has always been a number one priority for her," her mother said. "When she was four and she would get money for her birthday, people would ask her what she was going to do with it. She would say I'm putting it away for college."
To balance her busy schedule, spending up to three and a half hours a day in the pool or lifting weights, Allie must be very dedicated and manage her time carefully. She tries to get her homework and studying done as quickly as possible so it's not adding to her stress during her frequent practice sessions.
"She has had to be very dedicated, focused and organized to be able to keep up with her studies, because she does go right from school and straight to Duluth for practice," Heather said. "She has very minimal time between school and practice and doesn't get home until 8:30 at night."
As the high school swimming season ends, Allie is still a regular at North Shore Swim Club and is shifting her focus to her plans for next year. She applied and was accepted early at both St. Thomas University in St. Paul and Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter, the top two swim teams in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference last year. She plans to swim and, tentatively, to study chemistry. She does admit her choice has changed several times already and, like many high school seniors, it could change again.
Allie, however, has worked hard to achieve her goals and hopes that wherever she ends up going to school will help her reach her full potential. She also hasn't forgotten the sacrifices her family has made to help her get to where she is.
"I'm just so proud of everything I've accomplished and I'm so incredibly grateful for my mom and my family for supporting me through everything," Allie said.