High School Swimming

Taylor’s Sticklen defends state title, leaves lasting legacy

By DENNIS SILVA II, Times Sports Editor
Posted 2/15/20

Emma Sticklen has no idea why she’s so good at swimming.

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High School Swimming

Taylor’s Sticklen defends state title, leaves lasting legacy


Emma Sticklen has no idea why she’s so good at swimming.

“I literally don’t know,” the Taylor High senior said. “I’m so short!”

Sticklen assumes it’s genetics. She has a strong, physical build which she credits to her dad, who was a dominant weightlifter in high school. She’s good at “sprinty stuff.” She’s also a determined individual, eager to always set new goals and strive for more.

Whatever the reasons may be, Sticklen left a lasting legacy for the Mustangs in the final meet of her high school career at the UIL Class 6A state championships on Saturday, Feb. 15 at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin.

Sticklen, who will be swimming for the Longhorns in the fall, defended her state championship in the 100-yard backstroke, took home silver in the 100-yard butterfly, and helped the Mustangs’ 200-yard medley relay earn silver in leading Taylor’s girls team to a fourth-place overall finish at state.

“This year was different, being committed and signed to Texas, and I was able to feel at home,” Sticklen said. “This is where I’m going to be the next four years, which is so great. I was really comfortable. I really did try and leave everything out there, and I really think I did my best.”

Sticklen capped off a stellar high school career with three state championships in the last two years. Last year, she won gold in the 100 butterfly with a state-record time of 51.88 seconds and the 100 backstroke with a time of 53.01.

This season, Sticklen finished second in the 100 butterfly to friendly rival Lillie Nordmann of The Woodlands, but repeated as champ in the 100 backstroke with a time of 53.37.

“After getting second, I was like, ‘OK, let’s go get this one,’” Sticklen said. “I might’ve not gotten any best times, but overall I’m super happy with the way everything went. My team and I had a ton of fun, and I was really happy to make the most of my last state and last high school meet.

“It’s really bittersweet. But I was like, ‘It’s OK, guys, I’ll literally be at this pool if you need me.’”

Sticklen has been swimming since she was 5 years old. She admits she wasn’t very good then. She got frustrated quickly with being slow and not winning.

“I wanted those first-place ribbons. I wanted them so bad,” Sticklen said. “So, I was put in Katy Aquatics, a club team I’m still with today, because I wanted to start winning. I knew I’d have to practice a lot more. Plus, I loved to eat, so I needed exercise. I guess it all kind of worked out.”

That’s an understatement. Sticklen is the seventh-ranked commit in the Class of 2020. Texas coach Carol Capitani raves about her star recruit’s potential.

Sticklen dominated the local scene. She is a four-time District 19-6A Swimmer of the Meet honoree and was a clear star from the first day she walked into Mustangs coach Matt Apple’s office.

“In the most humble way possible, it’s really crazy that no one will probably do what I’ve done in a long time, or ever,” Sticklen said in reflecting upon her career at Taylor. “I’ve done everything I can to be the best I can be. Hopefully, when future swimmers that come through Taylor see my name on the record board at practice, they’ll see someone who worked really hard and was this really genuine person.”

Next up for Sticklen is preparing for the Olympic trials in June. Then it’s off to Austin to begin her career as a Longhorn.

“I’m excited to be around a group of girls that are faster than me and will push me and have the same goals as me,” she said. “One of my strongest points is how much fun I have and the confidence that comes with that. I’ve been confident because I’m one of the best swimmers in Texas, and just having fun and being able to show people that swimming doesn’t have to be who you are. Life doesn’t depend on how fast you go or how much time you drop. It’s about making memories and how you grow yourself as a person.”

The Mustangs’ 200 medley relay of Sticklen, and juniors Amy Evans, Abbie Alvarez and Kat Pashen established a school record at the state meet with a time of 1-minute, 42.99 seconds. Taylor senior Tyler Kopp earned silver in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 1:47.95. Kopp also took bronze in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4:22.27 and helped the Mustangs’ 200-yard medley relay to a bronze finish.

That relay of Kopp, freshman Patrick Spillman, senior Andrew Alcott and sophomore Andrew Lee set a school record with a time of 1:33.58.

Seven Lakes senior Seungjoon Ahn set two school records with his performance at state, with times of 1:37.85 in the 200-yard freestyle and 4:21.68 in the 500-yard freestyle. He won silver in both events.


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