Last year when Victoria Phegley competed at the Class 5A state swim championships on the campus of the University of Texas, she might have been a bit overwhelmed by the gravity of the situation.
However, this time around, the Liberty Hill senior was back for another crack at glory for the second straight year.
Phegley was the lone Panthers swimmer to qualify for the event and finished 11th in the 100-yard freestyle in a time of 53.56.
According to Phegley, she was happy to be able to ultimately come through for herself and her teammates.
“It feels wonderful,” said Phegley. “A lot of my teammates this year had really big expectations of me, so I’m glad I lived up to my success from last year and am able to continue being a role model for my team. I’m also proud to represent Liberty Hill at the Class 5A state meet again.”
Liberty Hill head coach Dimitra Becker said returning for a second year in a row certainly played in Phegley's favor.
“Having been to state before played to her advantage because she knew what to expect, which helped cut out some of those pre-race jitters,” she said. “She knew the level of competition she was swimming against and she was ready.”
Already being a veteran of the experience made it that much easier for Phegley, she said.
“I think it helped a lot that I’m over the initial jitters of attending a new championship meet,” she said. “This year, I already had an idea of how the meet would go and I had more time to focus on my race.”
Phegley added she found gratification in the fact she was able to rebound following a slow start to the season.
“Definitely, it had a lot of ups and downs,” she said. “My season started off really rough and I lost a lot of confidence in my swimming because I wasn’t dropping times for a while. However, my coaches told me to trust the process and eventually things worked out. I accomplished a lot of big goals of mine this season – qualifying for state again and getting my first even sectionals cut – and overall I’m ecstatic with how it went.”
Interestingly enough, last year Phegley competed at the state competition in the 100-yard butterfly and said mastering the different strokes can be an inexact science and an ever-changing proposition.
“That’s just the way it is with swimming sometimes,” she said. “An event you were great at last season can all of a sudden be a struggle to finish and you just have to adjust to that. This definitely isn’t the first time I’ve gone through this. For example, my freshman year, my strongest event was the 100 backstroke, but I haven’t dropped time in it since. So this year, the 100 butterfly has not been a successful event for me, so I adjusted and found something else I thrive in.”
Becker said it was Phegley's versatility that allowed her to make the adjustment to the different event.
“Victoria is an all-around talented swimmer,” she said. “She puts her head into competing and works super hard to get the job done. This season, she struggled with the 100 butterfly, which is the event she went to state in last year. She changed her focus to the 50 and 100 freestyle, which just happen to be the two most competitive races for high school swim. She never gave up on making those time cuts in order to make it all the way to state.”
Becker added Phegley's dedication out of the water has also played a critical role in her success.
“Victoria not only works hard in the pool, but hard in dryland workouts and in the weight room,” she said. “More times than not, she's at the front of the pack during our dryland practices because she pushes herself. Victoria is a very level-headed young lady – she tries to see things from all sides. She sets goals for herself and goes after them and I truly admire her for that.”
Once again qualifying for the state meet was something Becker believed was possible for Phegley, especially once the numbers began to trend in that direction, she said.
“I knew we'd be close to state again – I knew going into our district and regional meets if she kept her focus she could do it,” said Becker. “She showed up to both of those meets bigger and better each time. The biggest time cuts she had all season were at our district meet, which was huge. I'm extremely proud of Victoria, she's a four-year letterman, team captain and the first Liberty Hill swimmer to make state not once but twice.”
Becker said her increased expectations for her team overall this season has resulted in further development of the Panthers program and Phegley is a prime example of that progress.
“I asked more of our team this season than ever before and it has paid off,” she said. “Once all the kids understood and trusted the process, it all came together. Victoria had a wonderful final season to her four-year high school swim experience.”
Phegley said being part of the Panthers program has provided her with a genuine team experience in what can be a very individual endeavor.
“Getting to be a part of the Liberty Hill swim team has helped make an individual sport a team effort for me,” she said. “It's so easy in swimming to get wrapped up in your own times and progression and success and it can get very lonely. However, being on this team has given me the opportunity to work with and support my teammates as well as to be supported by them. It’s truly a blessing to have a team to lean on when races go poorly and to celebrate when we do well.”