STEVENS POINT — Security at the Hudson Sectional WIAA girls swimming meet Nov. 7 was lax.
They let an “animal” into the swimming pool area even though there are signs on the wall that read, “No animals allowed in the pool area.”
SPASH junior Alex Raczek, also known to coaches and teammates as “The Animal,” indeed got into the animal-free zone in the pool. She wasn’t chased down by security though, just other swimmers in the 50-yard freestyle.
Raczek kept the competition behind on her way to a winning time of 25.03 seconds and an automatic spot in the WIAA Division 1 State Swimming & Division Meet at the UW Natatorium in Madison on Saturday.
“(Alex) just does her job and what we ask her to do. She does it hard and she does it fast,” SPASH coach Daylyn Hopp said. “She just has that something the other girls respond to. When she talks the other girls listen.”
Raczek was named Swimmer of the Year in the Wisconsin Valley Conference and carried that momentum into the sectional meet.
She also anchored the 400 relay team that was a provisional qualifier for state as one of the 18 fastest times in all the sectionals combined with a time of 3:40.23. Joining Raczek on the relay team will be Julia Stupar, Kathryn Stupar and Abbey Rosenthal.
“Alex has done an amazing job adapting (to the sprints),”Hopps said. “She was in Kathryn’s (Stupar) shadow in the distance events and her talent was overshadowed. Sprints are perfect for her.
“Alex likes being the anchor on our relay teams because she loves the pressure of being in that position,” the coach added. “Alex is sort of our barometer. When she’s feeling good and happy and laughing, the team is feeling good.”
How did you get involved in swimming and what about the sport appeals to you? In fourth grade when I was swimming at the municipal pool over the summer and my mom asked if I wanted to start swimming. My mom swam in high school and I had always loved being in the water.
How do you see your role on this SPASH swimming team? My role is talking and goofing around with everyone and trying to make everyone feel like part of the team, and also get them into whatever we are doing at practice, meets or wherever we happen to be.
I understand you primarily swam distance events early in your SPASH career. How tough was the switch to sprints and what do you like or dislike about sprints compared to distance events? The switch wasn’t as tough as I thought. One thing I like is that I’m not competing with my teammate and friend Kathryn Stupar because we swam in the same events. One thing I dislike (about sprints) is that if you have a slow start or bad turn you can be out of the race.
You were the only individual to qualify for the WIAA state meet this year. What is the most important thing you focus on during the course of a race? Once I get up on the block for a race, I try to clear my mind. Especially for sprint events, because it’s over so fast you just have to swim and trust yourself to swim as fast as you can.
What has been the highlight of your swimming career up until this point? Either when our 400 free relay made it to state or the dual meet against Wausau East where we ended their 12-year winning streak and broke the 400 free relay pool record.
Who has been your role model growing up and what lesson have they taught you that you’ll take with you the rest of your life? My role model has been my grandma. One lesson she taught me is that you’ll never know what tomorrow will bring, you just have to live today like it’s the last one you have.
If you could choose to meet one person in the history of the world, dead or alive, who would you want to meet, and what would you like to find out about them? (“Harry Potter” author) JK Rowling, because her books and story are the reason I’ve gotten into reading and the reason I started writing myself. I would like to find out how she came up with that whole series, especially considering what she was going through in her life at the time.
Name something on your bucket list that you absolutely have to get done by the time you turn 40: I have to travel the world with people I get along with, have a good time and meet new people.
What is your greatest fear? Letting down the people I care about and the people that count on me to do something.
Tell us something about yourself the average person may not know about you: The nickname given to me by my coach and teammates is “The Animal” because my favorite place in a relay is the anchor and once I dive in, I eat everyone up and win a race.
How would you define happiness in your life? I define happiness in my life with how amazing all my family and friends are and how much support and love I have.
What can’t you live without: My family and friends. They make my life wonderful. I’m so blessed to have them all in my life.
Family: Father, Mark Raczek; Mother, Shelley Raczek; Brothers, Ben (11), Tony (7); Sisters, Gabby (14), Izzy (10)
Favorite subject: English
Favorite food: Homemade applesauce
Favorite all-time movie: “Perks of Being a Wallflower”
Favorite TV show: “Psych”
Favorite cartoon character: Scooby-Doo
Favorite superhero: Iron Man
Favorite musical group/artist: Thomas Rhett
Favorite pro athlete: (Olympic swimmer) Missy Franklin
Favorite team: Milwaukee Brewers
Favorite place in Stevens Point: Green Circle Trail
Favorite vacation spot: Heidelberg, Germany
Facebook, Twitter or Instagram: I don’t really use social media sites
iPhone or Android: iPhone
Fantasy job/career: Successful author
—Scott A. Williams can be reached at 715-345-2282, or on email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter as @SPJScottWill