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Zumwalt West freshman swimmer Harris overcomes painful layoff with strong finish at state

Fort Zumwalt West freshman Courtney Harris completed a remarkable season with third- and sixth-place finishes in the 50 and 100 free at the Missouri Girls Swimming Championships, Feb. 17 at the Rec-Plex in St. Peters. [Suzanne Harris photo.]

“Determined” and “virtually unstoppable” are words that accurately describe Fort Zumwalt West swimmer Courtney Harris as well as her ability and desire to excel in the water.

Harris, a freshman at Zumwalt West, finished a challenging season in the pool with the Jaguars girls swim team in a position that few people thought might happen – placing at the state meet.

Just over two months removed from a November surgery that kept her out of the pool until mid-January, Harris placed third in the 50-meter freestyle and sixth in the 100-meter freestyle at the Missouri Girls Swimming Championships, Feb. 17, at the Rec-Plex in St. Peters.

Being able to finish and finish well at the state meet was something that Harris was thrilled to experience after the work it took her to return to swimming at a high level.

“It was really crowded but really exciting and was really fun to have all my teammates there watching me and it was a really fun environment and we all had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs,” Harris said.

Harris had abdominal pain in the fall, which forced her to have surgery in early November. It was a tough time since she was not able to be in the pool until after the new year. She swims year-round for the Rec-Plex Sharks team when not competing with Zumwalt West.

“It was really hard because I missed swimming a lot,” Harris said. “I didn’t get to swim so it kind of was boring, I had to stay home and kind of laid down a lot and it was really painful but I got back in the pool after that and I was really excited.”

Getting back into good swimming shape was a tricky proposition for Harris, according to Zumwalt West coach Sarah Martin. Once back in the pool, Harris could not do a lot of swimming.

“It was tough keeping her down from the standpoint that we needed to not rush her return as much as she may have wanted to,” Martin said. “Literally, the first couple of weeks all she did was typical swim, no foot turns, no starts and no blocks and she was getting frustrated with that.”

That patience paid off with Harris’ third and sixth place finishes at state and helping the 400- and 200-free relay teams qualify at state.

Harris also is chasing Olympic. She narrowly missed the Olympic Trial cut for the 14 year age bracket in the 50-free long course race last summer.

Her freshman season was nothing short of amazing, as she broke the Gateway Athletic Conference record in the 50 free and Fort Zumwalt West records in the 50 and 100 free events.

“She comes from a family of competitive swimmers, which doesn’t hurt,” Martin said. “She has this need to constantly be better and to go faster and she feels at home in the water.”

After a brief break, Harris will be back in the pool, swimming with her club team and already has her sights set on bigger things with Zumwalt West in 2018.

“Next year, I want to win both my events, the 50 and 100 free, at state,” Harris said. “I know I’m going to have some tough competition but if I’m training hard enough, I think I have a shot to win.”


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