Searcy swimmer makes waves

by Mark Oliver
Megan Ledbetter photos

When it comes to competitive swimming in the 501, Searcy junior Erin McGuirt has been making a big splash.

“I’ve never been very good at anything on land,” McGuirt said. “When I was younger, I always looked up to one of my sister’s friends, Allison Greene. She was a swimmer, and I thought it was cool. When I was 8 years old, I joined the community swim team because I wanted to be just like her.”

When she started swimming, McGuirt met Coach Chad Price — someone who would quickly grow to be one of her biggest role models in and out of the pool.

“I’ve been working with Coach Price since day one,” McGuirt said. “He used to be a competitive swimmer, so he knows what’s going on in my mind during events and knows how to push me to be my best in and out of the water. He has a great training system and knows how to make us stronger in and out of the pool. At this point, I see him more than I see my own parents. He’s like a second father to me. I really look up to him and hope to be as good as he was one day.”

In addition to her time with Searcy’s swim team, McGuirt competes regularly through Shark ATAC Swim Team, a USA and AAU swimming organization.

“I’ve won several state events with the Sharks,” McGuirt said. “I’ve won the 400m individual medley two years in a row, and I’ve won the 100m fly, the 200m free, the 200m butterfly and the 200m individual medley.”

In February, McGuirt was named to the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association High School All-American team.

“During the state tournament, my time in the 100m fly was good enough to qualify me for the team,” McGuirt said. “For high school swimming, it’s the highest honor you can get, and it was a big deal for me.”

In March, McGuirt competed on her largest stage yet — the Junior National Swim Meet in Orlando, Fla.

“Even though it was the second time that I had competed, I remember being nervous,” McGuirt said. “The events are a lot different than anything I’m used to. Going into each event, you are pre-ranked against the other competitors, which can psych you out. Because some of the events are so large, you may end up with the same time as 20 other girls. This year, I had several best times and dropped my times in the 50 free, the 50 fly and the 200 individual medley.”

McGuirt credits positive stress management as her key to success at big events.

“Because you train all year for these events, there’s a lot of pressure to perform well,” McGuirt said. “Sometimes it’s good to find someone to talk to before a race to help take the pressure off you. Music is also a helpful avenue to help take your mind off everything.”

McGuirt’s accomplishments in the water have not come without their challenges. One of the biggest obstacles that she and the Sharks face is a lack of practice time.

“For the last few years, we’ve been fortunate enough to use the facilities at Harding University to practice,” McGuirt said. “However, due to Harding’s pool schedule, we get 90 minutes at the end of each day to practice while other teams in the state are getting two-a-day practices or more. Although we’re grateful for the time that they allow us to have, we don’t get as much practice time as other teams, and it puts us at a disadvantage.”

Help is on the way for the Sharks. The city of Searcy is currently constructing a new pool facility that will allow the team more practice time.

“Once the new pool is built, it will be great,” McGuirt said. “The girls I’m beating now or getting close to beating now are practicing more than I am.”

Another challenge McGuirt faces is the ability to balance academics with athletics.

“School work is definitely very difficult to keep up with,” McGuirt said. “I’m taking three Advanced Placement classes this year, and I have a lot of homework that I have to keep up with. Due to swim practice, I typically don’t get home until after 7 o’clock each night. There’s many late nights just to keep up with everything.”

At Searcy High School, the junior juggles multiple responsibilities as a member of National Honor Society and Beta Club as she excitedly eyes her future.

“I’ve been approached by a couple of schools already,” McGuirt said. “No matter where I end up, I know that I want to be in the medical field one day. I’m interested in physical therapy, but I’m also exploring my options. I recently applied for a medical internship, which will help me plan for my future.”

McGuirt gives back to the 501 through her youth group at Fellowship Bible Church in Searcy.

“My church is a big part of my life,” McGuirt said. “I’ve helped lead our small groups, and I’ve done [missions work] in our town.”

As she eyes the summer and her upcoming senior year, McGuirt continues to set strong goals for her future.

“My priority right now is dropping my times to help me get into a good college,” McGuirt said. “I’m also working toward qualifying for bigger meets like nationals and Olympic trials. I’m not too far from having a qualifying time in the 100m fly. Getting extra practice time once the new pool is built will be a key factor in reducing my times.”