Kenai's Stacey Pault is just one semester into her college career, and she hasn't any time diving right in to her academic and athletic pursuits.
"The season starts in September and goes until March. We've got a meet every weekend, and we do a lot of trips to other states," said the freshman member of the University of Northern Colorado's women's swimming team.
Pault, the winner of a state title in the 100-yard backstroke for Kenai Central High School in 1998 and was a runner-up with a personal-best time of 59.78 seconds in 1999.
Pault said that making the jump to an NCAA Division II program has been a big adjustment for a number of reasons.
"I'm doing a lot more yardage," Pault said of her college workouts. "When it comes to meets, we're doing practices right before meets, so I'm a little tired.
"We're at such a high altitude in Greeley ... when I first got there, I had to adjust to college workouts and the altitude change."
Pault said that swimming in the thin air can add as much as a second to a 100-yard time.
"My practice times have improved," Pault said, adding that she expects her competition times to improve as well when the team begins to taper for conference and postseason competitions.
"I'd like to make it to nationals," Pault said. "My high school time isn't that far off from the national cut."
Pault said she also is adjusting to swimming as many as six or seven events in a meet, rather than focusing on one.
"I do the 100 back and the 200 back," Pault said. "I do freestyle, too, and I'm in the relays. I'm a sprinter, so I don't do anything over 200 -- that's enough for me.
"I want to improve my 200, and I want to perform well in all those events, not just one."
Half of Pault's scholarship package is for athletics, but the other half is for academics, and she's set some impressive marks for herself in the classroom. Pault scored a 4.0 grade point average during her first semester, though she expects things to get tougher as she gets deeper into her pre-medicine studies. Pault's major is human biology.
"Swimming takes a lot more time (than it did in high school), and it has to be a pretty high priority," Pault said. "Coach (Nancy Hinrichs) expects you to put swimming first. With swimming, classes and labs, it's hard to balance everything out. College ... is a lot more intense."
Pault will be picking up the intensity of her training regimen over the next two weeks with pre-semester workouts. The team is planning to swim in a pool at an even higher elevation, and Pault expects to swimming as much as 20,000 yards -- almost 11 1-2 miles -- every day.
After classes resume for the spring semester, the UNC squad will compete at various meets through the end of February. The North Central Conference championship meet is scheduled for February 22 through 24 at the University of North Dakota, followed by the NCAA Division II championships March 14 through 17.
The Next Level features Kenai Peninsula atheletes who have gone on to participate in atheltics after high school. If you know of any such athlete, contact the Clarion sports department by phone at 283-7551, by fax at 283-3299 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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