Standing poolside as Katey Rowden neared the finish in the 400-yard relay, Hayley Raasch screamed cheers for her teammate.
After the freshman touched the wall to secure Decatur’s first District 6-4A relay title – along with the league’s runner-up trophy – Raasch couldn’t hide the pride she felt.
“I got to see them bring it home,” said the smiling Lady Eagle senior.
But as the swim program she helped found reached a high-water mark, Raasch had to watch from the sidelines. Surgery to repair her hip prevented the senior from capping her career in the pool.
“I’m sad that I didn’t get to finish what we started,” she admitted. “But that’s life. You take the punches and go on.”
Swimming has been part of Raasch’s life since she was 8. As she neared high school, she wanted an opportunity to compete there. Facing the choice of not competing or going to Denton, she helped lead the effort in the fall of 2007 to start a program in Decatur.
“I was there at the initial school board meeting shaking to fight for this,” Raasch recalled.
Her pleading was answered.
She immediately took advantage of the opportunity, finishing second at district and fifth at regionals her freshman year in the 100-yard backstroke.
Raasch won a pair of silver medals at district as a sophomore but was forced out of the regional meet because of appendicitis.
Last year, Raasch came one second away from earning a state bid in the 100-yard backstroke, taking second at regionals.
While unable to finish this season, she wasn’t going to miss the chance to cheer her teammates on Saturday.
“I’m the first to go through the program four years,” Raasch said. “I’m proud of what it’s grown into.”
After Rowden was honored as the meet’s top female swimmer, Raasch’s pride nearly turned to tears.
“To see them get those honors, that’s the stuff that makes me cry,” Raasch said.
The program’s success proves that Raasch was making the right case to start the program several years ago.
Since then, she’s become pretty good at presenting a case. Raasch helped Decatur’s Mock Trial team advance to state by winning the regional competition earlier this month. Not a surprise, she won the best advocate.