Franklin, who has swam for 11 years with the Stars, entered the second day of the event with her eye on the American record in the 200-yard backstroke.
In a waiting room inside the 2,500-seat Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center on Thursday, four-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin had a reality check.
Seated next to her were two future Pac-12 swimmers. One is headed to Stanford. The other is USC-bound. As she looked around at the different Pac-12 flags hanging on the walls, it hit the 17-year-old Franklin that the next time she would be in that room, she would be competing as a college swimmer at California.
“That’s just crazy to think about,” said Franklin, a high-school senior in Colorado. “Mind-blowing. It’s just so exciting, but it’s sad too because there are so many good memories.”
Franklin and her club team, the Colorado Stars, are in town for the Western Region Section Short Course Championships, a five-day event featuring swimmers from all over the West.
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Franklin, who has swam for 11 years with the Stars, entered the second day of the event with her eye on the American record in the 200-yard backstroke. She started off on pace to break the record, but finished .04 seconds behind Elizabeth Pelton’s mark with a winning time of 1:48.42.
“I wanted the record bad,” Franklin said. “It was hard to be so close, but I know that I’m going to have a million more chances to get it.”
She also won the 100-yard feestyle with a personal-best and national-age-group record 47.28 and was the second leg in the 200-yard medley relay. Each time, she stepped off the podium and handed her medals to a little kid in the crowd.
“She has swam lights out,” said Todd Schmitz, Franklin’s longtime coach with the Colorado Stars.
Franklin captivated the country during the 2012 London Olympics with her four gold medals — she also took home one bronze — and bubbly personality. Only 17, Franklin is considered the next face of swimming after Michael Phelps retired following the London Games.
Yet Franklin had a much more immediate concern in Federal Way on Thursday: The meet marks the final time Franklin will swim with most of her club team before heading off to college.
“That’s what really fires her up,” Schmitz said. “She loves the team atmosphere. Three weeks ago, when she walked in after high-school state, she was like, ‘All right, guys, let’s get excited because sections is going to rock.’ The other kids looked at each other and were like, ‘Let’s do this!’ “
“Those are the types of little things I’m going to miss the most.”
Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org