Sports

Hazen swimmer Lauren Kaufman seeks state title after close finish freshman year

Hazen sophomore Lauren Kaufman works out with a kickboard in practice at Hazen. - Matt Brashears/Renton Reporter
Hazen sophomore Lauren Kaufman works out with a kickboard in practice at Hazen.
— image credit: Matt Brashears/Renton Reporter

Twelve months later, Lauren Kaufman gets a chance to change an outcome of less than a second.

The Hazen swimmer finished third in the 50-yard freestyle race at the 3A state swim last season as just a freshman. Impressed? Kaufman wasn’t.

“I was actually really disappointed because I really wanted to win,” Kaufman said. “I know that if I put my mind to it, I can do it.”

Fifty-eight thousandths of a second doesn’t seem like much, but that is what separated Kaufman from the title. Making matters worse, the swimmer on top of the podium – Issaquah’s Helen Liu – was someone Kaufman knows well and swims against often.

“I swim against her on club quite a bit and I know I can beat her,” Kaufman said. “We’ve gone back and forth.”

Kaufman will have her chance to make amends this year because both Liu and the second-place swimmer – Camas’ MacKenzie Bailie – were underclassmen and returned this year.

Kaufman also swam on the Hazen 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams at the state meet last season. Along with Karlie Howe, Laure Thompson and Kaela Nurmi, Kaufman placed seventh in the 400 and eighth in the 200. But, all along Kaufman’s main emphasis in competitive swimming has been on her club, King Aquatic Club.

Through King Aquatic, she competed at the Speedo Junior National Championships in Minnesota in August of this year, where she placed 119th. That number is a little deceiving because with such a crowded and evenly matched field, her time was close to the leaders.

“Club is my main priority because I rely on it to help with my future,” Kaufman said. “The high school team is so much fun. It’s kind of like a little break. There’s not nearly as much pressure.”

That’s not to say she doesn’t do what’s needed to help her team at Hazen. Because she has competed in so many different events this season, she has already qualified for the 3A state meet in the 200 freestyle, 200 individual medley, 50 freestyle, 100 fly, 100 freestyle, 500 freestyle, 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay.

“I wasn’t really expecting to qualify for state in so many events,” Kaufman said. “I’m only allowed to swim in two individual events, but if I could I’d probably swim in a few more.”

She will likely swim the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle races at the state meet this year.

With another year of experience, she’s hoping things will be different the second time around at state. Last year as a 15-year-old at the most important high school meet in the state, Kaufman admitted that her nerves got the best of her. With that experience, and other big meets under her belt, nerves won’t be nearly as much of a problem.

Besides the nerves, Kaufman is doing everything she can to get better. Between Hazen and club practices she spends nearly 30 hours a week practicing. The Hazen team practices for an hour and a half before school three times a week. Kaufman attends the first half hour or so of Hazen practices every day before going to King Aquatic, where she practices three hours a day, seven days a week.

As for the rivalry with Liu, Kaufman hasn’t forgotten what happened last year. “Oh that’s definitely motivated me this year,” she said. “And I did not let her beat me this summer.”

For a swimmer that qualified for state in the 50 long ago, and has only competed in it twice this year in high school meets, the high school season simply boils down to one day at state.

In a race that lasts roughly 24 seconds.

With a margin of less than a second.

Kaufman is working hard so that this time, she’ll be on the other side of that margin.

Adam McFadden can be reached at amcfadden@rentonreporter.com or 425-255-3484, ext. 5054.

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