Tristin Baxter, Mariah Tharp and Mackenzie Schuler were the role models when McKenna Fife arrived at Clovis West High.
That trio of sensational swimmers had the Central Section titles, All-American times and college scholarships Fife longed for.
Four years later, Fife is headed to Brigham Young with a résumé that includes 10 gold and three silver medals from the Central Section Swimming and Diving Championships.
"I saw how hard they worked," Fife said. "I wanted to be where they were. I wanted people to say she's a really good swimmer, too, and I wanted to be the role model they were to me and inspire freshmen to swim harder."
The Bee's Girls Swimmer of the Year for the second straight season (Fife shared the award with teammate Mary Brooks in 2012) capped her four-year career at the Division I finals on May 18 at Bakersfield College in grand fashion.
Fife won twice individually and led two first-place relay teams as the Golden Eagles captured a state record 17th consecutive section title, edging rival Clovis 360-345 in an outcome that wasn't decided until the event's final race.
"I didn't want to be in the class that lost the streak," Fife said. "In the years before we had powerhouse swimmers. But in the last two years, we had to work. It was not handed to us."
Fife opened her run at the D-I finals by winning the 200 individual medley for the second straight year in 2:06.48.
Then in her signature event, Fife swam a 57.52 to win the 100 back for the third straight year.
Both were career best times and came nearly 12 months after Fife was involved in an automobile accident that left her with a fractured C1 vertebrae.
She missed three months of training after the crash, then missed another month of training in January with a heart problem.
"I didn't know if she would be able to swim for us," Clovis West coach Adam Reid said. "She's really lucky to be alive. Most people who break their neck where she did are paralyzed. To have her come back from that and work and train and be able to still go her best times 12 months later is most impressive."
Reid needed Fife at her best after the Golden Eagles' 200 medley relay team disqualified during preliminaries at the D-I finals, leaving Clovis in the lead after the first day of competition.
Fife responded by helping Clovis West clock an All-American consideration 1:38.18 while winning the 200 free relay.
That set the stage for the final event, the 400 free relay, where the Golden Eagles needed to finish third or better to secure the team title.
The team of Fife, Ali Alving-Trihn, Sarah Snyder and Mary Brooks secured another section championship plaque for Clovis West's trophy case by topping the field by more than 3 seconds in 3:34.34.
"She brings energy to practice and the meets," Reid said. "The rest of our team feeds off that. She's a big reason we had that amazing comeback."
Swimmer of the Year
School: Clovis West
She's qualified because: Was top points producer as Eagles captured state-record 17th consecutive Central Section title at D-I finals by winning four golds. Won 100 back for third straight year in 57.52, 200 IM for second time in a row in 2:06.48 and helped power champion 200 free (1:38.18) and 400 free (an All-American consideration 3:09.27) relays. Finished career with golds in five individual events and five relays. Selected All-Bee four times in swimming, including Co-Player of the Year honors last year, and twice in water polo. Headed to BYU.
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