High School Swimming

WORKING FOR IT

Senior swimmer Welborn finds comfort, success with Spartans program

By Dennis Silva II, Sports Editor
Posted 2/28/21

During her freshman year at Cinco Ranch High School, Seven Lakes senior Maddie Welborn was exhausted. For months upon months, almost every morning and every night, she trained for swimming. She was burnt out, and because of it she started to see a dip in her performance.

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High School Swimming

WORKING FOR IT

Senior swimmer Welborn finds comfort, success with Spartans program

Posted

During her freshman year at Cinco Ranch High School, Seven Lakes senior Maddie Welborn was exhausted. For months upon months, almost every morning and every night, she trained for swimming. She was burnt out, and because of it she started to see a dip in her performance.

So Welborn took a break from competitive swimming as a sophomore. She still trained, but on her own time.

“It made a difference,” Welborn said. “It think it helped to have that.”

When she transferred to Seven Lakes after her sophomore year because her mom worked at the school, Welborn was still in a difficult place mentally, however. She had negative thoughts about how she was swimming at the time.

But all of that soon changed. These days, Welborn has a “way more” positive mindset than she did then, and it shows. The University of Kentucky signee is seeded third in the 200-yard freestyle (with a time of 1-minute, 49.20 seconds) and fifth in the 100-yard freestyle (50.98 seconds) going into the UIL state swimming championships Monday, March 1, in San Antonio.

Welborn has found her way, and not only as an athlete.

“Her growth has been huge, not just as a swimmer but as a person,” Seven Lakes coach Jordan Beck said. “She’s really come out of her shell a lot. Last year, she was reserved and a little hesitant. This year, she’s great. She’s her hardest critic and has very lofty goals that she’ll work to meet.

“It’s a joy to coach her. I wish I had more than that two-year window, but that two-year window has made a big impact on the program because of who she is.”

The races Welborn swims are “not fun at all,” Beck said. Still, she thrives.

“I love challenges,” Welborn said. “I’m always trying to tell myself I can always do better. Every time I get in the pool, I’m always trying to improve on something.”

Welborn is mentally tough. She “embraces the suck and she goes for it,” Beck said.

“A few weeks ago, we were doing sprint sets and I put up times of where I want them to be,” he said. “She was like, ‘I can’t do this.’ So, I said, ‘If you do this, we can end practice,’ and she ended up going the time she said she couldn’t do. That’s just the mentality. She’s going to work and push.”

During the devastating winter storm that plagued the area last week, Welborn still found a way to swim. She drove to a neighborhood outdoor heated pool and practiced. She did not practice Monday, when it snowed, or Tuesday, when roads were iced and her mom forbade her from driving, but she practiced Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in near-freezing temperatures.

“It’s about my goals,” Welborn said. “Whatever I’m trying to go for, I know it’s going to pay off at the end of the season. State or any meet, I know whatever work I put in at the pool will show.”

Welborn focuses more now on swimming her own race instead of concerning herself with how fast competitors are going. That’s been a significant change in her approach.

She’s also learned to pace herself better. Before, she was scared to get out too fast in the 200 freestyle. But now she knows she has to if she wants to stay with leaders of the pack. It’s why she’s improved on her time in the 200, swimming a 1:49.20 at regionals this year opposed to her eighth-place time of 1:50.45 at state as a junior last year.

“I really want to medal this year since it’s my senior year,” Welborn said. “But going for a best time would also be good. I really want to see what I can do.”

For the 16th consecutive year, and 15th under Beck, Seven Lakes is sending a qualifier to the state championships. Welborn will join junior teammate Gracelyn Cox, senior Justin Liao, the girls 200-yard medley relay, and sophomore diver Kailey Koval in the Alamo City.

It’s a considerable accomplishment reflective of the culture established. The program is built upon trust and leaders, Beck said.

“It’s the kids buying into the culture,” he said. “They know what’s come in the past and they want to keep building on what’s been built. We have a ton of kids who come back to the program all the time and are still invested, and it helps carry on to the new groups because they don’t want to be the ones to slow us down.”

More importantly, kids feel like they’re part of a family when they join the Spartans’ program. That fosters openness and work ethic. It’s partly why Welborn ultimately found her comfort zone.

“It’s a really positive culture for a high school team,” Welborn said. “I’ve heard of a lot of bad experiences for just high school sports in general. It can kind of be negative. But this is a positive, driving culture that tries to make everyone around us better. I enjoy it. It’s nice to see the girls who swam here and what they’re doing in college and know that if I work hard, I could be doing the same thing in a couple of years at that same level.”

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