West Valley High School doesn’t have a swim team, but that hasn’t stopped freshman Joe Covey from breaking district records in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle races earlier this month.
Covey, who is competing in the state meet today in Federal Way, has been swimming since he was eight months old. At age 8, he began competing for Spokane Area Swimming.
But when he entered West Valley, Covey was confronted with an obstacle: the absence of a school swim team.
Starting a program at West Valley wasn’t possible because of the lack of swimming facilities in the area, but Covey wasn’t deterred.
Covey and his father, Stan, met with Wayne McKnight, West Valley’s athletic director, about creating a swimming co-op with Cheney High School.
McKnight agreed to the idea, and now Covey represents West Valley but trains with swimmers from Cheney, Medical Lake and Liberty high schools at Eastern Washington University. The teams compete in District 7.
To make morning practices, Covey sets his alarm for 4:15 a.m. and his parents drive him from their Bigelow Gulch home to Cheney, a 45-minute commute.
Sometimes he makes the trip twice a day, practicing three or four mornings each week and every day after school.
But the commute hasn’t dimmed Covey’s dedication to swimming. He takes competition so seriously that he visualizes big races, planning every breath before he enters the water.
“I pretty much know everything I’m going to do,” he said.
Visualization paid off two months ago at the Husky Invitational in Seattle, where Covey qualified in both of his events for the junior national meet that will be held in North Dakota next month.
For the state meet, Covey is visualizing how it looks and feels to win the 50 and 100 freestyle.
“I hope to win at least one of the races,” he said. “I’ll explode from the blocks … then pop up and just go crazy.”
Covey set new records at the district meet earlier this month, clocking 22.77 seconds in the 50-meter freestyle, and 49.7 seconds in the 100.
Jeff Rice, who coaches the co-op swim team, said Covey has a good shot at placing in the state meet, which also means he’s competitive nationally.
“Ideally, I think he’ll be in the top three at the state meet,” Rice said. “And Washington is one of the fastest states in the nation, so to do well here means a lot,” Rice said.
Rice added that Covey’s toughest competition in both events will come from Mercer Island senior Jeff Guyman.
Success at an early stage in Covey’s high school swimming career hasn’t produced a swelled ego.
“He’s one of those guys who is extremely fast but doesn’t let it get to his head,” Rice said, noting that Covey sometimes helps other swimmers with their strokes during practive.
“He’s the ideal swimmer you’d want to have.”
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