LAKE FOREST — Stevenson girls swim and dive coach Karl Milkereit is observant. He can often tell what stroke a young swimmer is best suited for based on specific body type.
“Flyers and breaststrokers are born that way,” Milkereit said. “If someone comes in and I see their feet angled out, they are a breaststroker. If their feet are angled in, they will be a flyer.
“It’s just how their bodies are made.”
Based on Milkereit’s assessment, senior Ashlin Ruiz is perfect for the butterfly.
“Ashlin has a nice undulation to the stroke,” Milkereit said. “She understands it.”
That comes from practice. Lots of practice.
At Saturday’s Lake County Invitational at Lake Forest, Ruiz performed in four events for the Patriots. Two involved the fly: the 200-yard medley relay and the 100 fly. Ruiz swam the third leg of the relay, finishing with a split time of 26.99 seconds. It was her season-best split in the medley relay. In the individual 100 fly, she came close to breaking the one-minute mark with a fourth-place time of 1:00.46.
“I really wanted to go under a minute,” Ruiz said. “I was close.”
Ruiz gravitated toward the fly almost instantly once taking up the sport as a 9 year old. As a freshman on the junior varsity team, she swam the fly and the 500 free. In 2013, she made the Stevenson varsity.
On a senior-heavy, sectional-winning Patriots team in 2013, Ruiz swam almost exclusively the fly. Practicing every day with state qualifier Rebecca Hannon, Ruiz learned how to pace herself for each lap.
“For the first 50 [yards] I have to not go all out as I tire at the end,” Ruiz said. “I have to stretch my arms usually and just try and sprint the last 50.”
Ruiz is not just swimming the fly this season. At the Lake County Invite, she also swam the 100 backstroke and the lead split for the Patriots’ 400 free relay team. Along with junior sprinter Casey Kirby (50, 100 free) and senior distance swimmer Shayna Salzman (200, 500 free), Ruiz is swimming in more events in 2014.
“They were in an auxiliary role [in 2013], kind of second or third,” Milkereit said. “Now they are number ones and taking that and doing a good job with it.”
The emergence of sophomore Rachel Song and junior Irune Andres (200 and 500 relay) gives the Patriots depth heading into the season’s second half. Stevenson’s fifth-place team showing at Lake Forest was promising considering the competition (Barrington won with Lake Forest second and Libertyville third).
For Ruiz, a strong October should lead to high finishes in November.
“I really want to make state,” Ruiz said.