Splashing around her family’s backyard pool as a child suited Isabelle Stadden. The monotony of organized practice was another matter.
“I never used to really like the practices,” Stadden said. “I used to have to be forced to go.”
These days she’s forcing the competition to keep pace. Stadden, a 14-year-old freshman at Blaine, recently earned one of the top spots on the state’s honor roll with a time of 57.82 seconds in the 100-yard backstroke.
Once she has tapered, Stadden hopes to drop more time and qualify for November’s Class 2A state meet — the next step for a young swimmer on the rise. She finished less than one second from the 100 backstroke qualifying standard last fall.
She enjoyed a national breakthrough this summer, winning a prestigious event while competing with her FASTjets club swim team. Stadden shattered the 200-meter backstroke record with a time of 2:17.94 at the MegaZone meet in Indianapolis. Her mark was almost four seconds better than the previous record set in 2012. Stadden’s performance came at a meet featuring 14 club teams representing more than 10 states.
She later competed in the Speedo Junior National Championships held at the University of Minnesota. Not bad for someone who took awhile to recognize her potential.
“My coaches always told me that they saw something in me,” Stadden said. “They always said, ‘You have to work for it. You have to try hard in practice.’ I never used to try at practice, but then I started trying. I guess I progressed a lot.”
FASTjets club coach Cale Jackson said he and former coach Josh McDuffie saw glimpses of Stadden’s potential and encouraged her to strive for more.
“There would be times when she would really move when she got her legs going, and there were times when she was just sniffing daisies,” Jackson said.
Competing for Blaine as a seventh-grader forced Stadden out from the cocoon of her age group and elevated her training, Jackson said.
Blaine coach Kristen Luedtke called Stadden “a workhorse in the pool. She feels the water, which means she places her hands in such a way that moves water efficiently. And she can make adjustments mid-stroke rather than just muscling through. She’s not a unicorn, but she’s one of a few kids at this level who understand that way of doing things.”
Innate ability and a strong work ethic helped Stadden develop a racing gear not many competitors can match.
“A lot of kids don’t start out sprinting; they build up,” Stadden said. “But it’s easier for me to start out sprinting because then I can keep the same pace.”
As an eighth-grader, Stadden swam leadoff legs for Blane’s two state meet qualifying relays, the 200 freestyle and 200 medley. She hopes to return in those events and make her backstroke debut. Her fourth event could be the 200 individual medley.
Stadden recently won both individual events at the True Team section meet.
“That brought up my confidence a lot,” Stadden said. “I feel like once I’m tapered, then I can excel.”
Stadden’s blossoming career is satisfying for Jackson, one of the first coaches to push Stadden toward realizing her talents.
“It’s cool that she is becoming more aware of her potential and she sees the value in working toward fulfilling that potential,” Jackson said.