The thought didn’t cross Sam Martin’s mind to continue swimming competitively after high school.
But her mother knew that she had a lot to offer in college.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to swim in college until my junior year of high school, but my mom told me to look into swimming schools just in case,” Martin said. “When I found that many coaches were interested in me, I saw that I had great potential in the sport and needed to achieve that potential.”
After being contacted by Western State Colorado University during her junior season swimming with the Greenwave, Martin realized that her swimming career was going to enter another chapter. Before her final season at Fallon, Martin was offered a spot on the travel team and then she signed to swim with the Division II school, located in Gunninson, a small Colorado mountain town with a population just shy of 6,000.
“I liked that the school was small and located in a small town,” said Martin, who’s studying exercise and sport science and wants to earn a doctorate in physical therapy. “I really liked the coach and the way he ran his program. Also, that it was a Division II school.”
In her first season swimming for the Mountaineers, Martin didn’t disappoint. She won two events in the conference championships and broke the school record for the 200-meter backstroke, which she won.
“To better my times and become an all-around better swimmer, and to break school records,” Martin said of her goal for this past season.
Martin partook in several events for the Mountaineers, who took fifth at the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Championships in February.
“We needed a backstroker and she showed she could be competitive in not only that event, but also in the butterfly and as an IM’er,” Western coach Bradley Smith said. “We were especially excited to recruit Sam after getting the opportunity to meet her and her family in person. I was confident her energy and enthusiasm would propel her to achieve great things.”
Martin took first in the 75 back (1 minute, 6.81 seconds) and 200 back (2:13.76), second in the 100 back (1:01.99), 200 fly (2:24.79) and 50 back (28.91), third in the 100 (1:05.49) and 50 fly (30.10), and fourth in 200 individual medley (2:24.60), 400 IM (5:07.84) and 50 freestyle (26.18).
“She has maintained that same spectacular attitude and is an extraordinary team player,” Smith said. “As she has grown and developed it is no wonder she has been able to place at championships as a freshman and set our school record in the 200 backstroke. We are not close to seeing the best of Sam yet. There is much more to come as a student-athlete, as a teammate, and perhaps as a leader down the road.”
The Mountaineers nearly doubled their team points from their first year at the RMAC Championships. Western scored 166 points at the RMAC Championships in 2012-13, and this season tallied 308 points to place fifth.
Martin, though, suffered a minor setback this offseason, as she needed surgery to repair a torn labrum in her shoulder. But she’s determined to get back into the pool and stronger for her sophomore season.
“I want to get healthy again and be able to come back better than I was before,” she said. “I would also like to qualify for the NCAAs.”
Martin’s been swimming for 13 years and credits her club experience with Atusko Perkins and Mike Richmond for developing her into a college swimmer.
“She taught me that swimming required dedication and toughness,” Martin said of Perkins. “(Richmond) improved my swimming greatly over a year span, and helped me fall in love with the sport again.”
Ken Grimes, who coached Martin during her senior season with the Greenwave, noticed she went above and beyond her normal workouts to help achieve her goals.
“Samantha has always been a dedicated swimmer who often put in double workouts on her own to achieve her personal goals,” he said. “I am very happy for her success this year and I am sure she is probably already working towards her goals for next season.”
Swimming’s demand, as seen notably on the Olympic stage, is extremely high from January to December by requiring an athlete to be focused and determined non-stop.
“Club swimming taught me that swimming is a demanding year-round sport and that there are not breaks in a swim season,” said Martin, who broke school records in the 200 IM, 100 back and 100 fly. “It taught me to be responsible and to manage my time. Club helped me immensely because I was already doing two practices a day and swimming on the weekends. I knew the commitment that would be required to be a collegiate athlete.”