Claudia Velie left something unfinished last season.
The Kingston junior came within one event of making Ironman status as a sophomore.
It bugged her in the offseason.
So, with renewed determination, Velie made a concerted effort to accomplish the task quickly. She did that last week.
Velie became the first Kingston female swimmer to qualify for all eight individual events for the state swimming championships. Velie made the state-qualifying time in the 500-yard freestyle at a meet against North Kitsap.
She’s also not the only Kitsap swimmer to gain Ironman this season.
Kira Crane of Klahowya and Eleanor Beers of North Kitsap also accomplished the feat. Nadia Cole of Port Angeles is nearing Ironman with one event, the 100 butterfly, still on the table. That would make it four swimmers from the Olympic League to Ironman in one season.
Velie said getting so close as a sophomore inspired her this season.
“When I missed the 50 free … I made that a point to practice on my sprint freestyle so that I could try and get it this year,” she said.
The sprint event is usually the first state event swimmers attain, but not Velie.
“I’ve never been a sprinter, ever,” she said. “In all the years I’ve been swimming I’ve never been a sprinter … freestyle hasn’t been my thing. It’s never been something that I tried to focus on.”
Velie was relieved to have one goal finished with seven weeks left until the Class 2A state meet Nov. 10-11 at the King County Aquatics Center in Federal Way.
Now she can concentrate on getting faster in the 200 individual medley and the 100 breaststroke, the two events she’ll swim at state. Velie said by working on her IM and focusing on the final 50, it helped her when it came time to swim the single event.
Kingston coach Pam Manix said Velie is valuable because she is self-motivated and puts in the work to achieve her goals.
“She was disappointed last year,” Manix said of Velie not making Ironman. “She made a plan. She went to practice all summer, and she worked to execute that plan. She kept focused and kept dedicated to that goal.”
Manix said Velie has all three attributes that make a good swimmer; talent, mental toughness, and character.
But sometimes, Velie is willing to take on too many challenges.
Manix said Velie wanted to swim the final four events at a meet — just to see if she could do it.
“I said no, that’s not good for your training,” Manix added.
Velie said naturally gravitated toward the breaststroke as an age-group swimmer, but the 200 IM has become her main event.
“More during my freshman year I started getting more into the 200 IM and that one I kind of fell in love with,” she said. “It’s a tough race but I really like it.”
Manix said it’s typical for good breaststrokers to make great medley swimmers.
“She’s not just a breaststroker. She can do it all,” Manix said.
Velie has been tracking her competition’s swim times from across the state that is submitted online.
“I’ve looked at the results from last year … so I know who I’m up against and I’m pretty up to date where everyone is sitting so far. I think I have a good chance of placing pretty well.”
Velie’s best time in the 200 IM this season is 2 minutes, 16.17 seconds, putting her second overall in the state rankings. She swam a 2:14.90 at state last season, which placed her seventh overall.
Her competition includes North Kitsap’s Eleanor Beers, who is ranked No. 1, Klahowya’s Kira Crane (third) and Nadia Cole (fourth) of Port Angeles.
Velie loves to race.
“She just goes,” Manix said. “She doesn’t play. She just goes after them. Some of them will stay at their feet and run them down and pass them, she just goes after them.”
It’s a strength for Velie, knowing she has the talent to go along with her work ethic.
“As long as I’ve been swimming, I’ve never been taught to doubt my abilities,” she said. “It’s nice to know that I have that kind of support system.”