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An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

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Freshman Owen shatters records, earns spot in 2024 Olympic Trials

Courtesy of Sarah Paisley Owen
Freshman Sarah Paisley Owen competes in the Speedo Junior National Championships. Owen finished the 50-meter freestyle in 25.61 seconds qualifying her for the 2024 Olympic Trials.

Fifteen year-old freshman Sarah Paisley Owen has secured her place to compete in the 2024 Olympic Trials.

 In the 100-yard free, Owen broke a 22-year-old Georgia Local Swimming Committee 13-14 age group record with a time of 49.48. Amanda Weir, a three-time Olympian, held the prior record of 49.53. 

Additionally, in the 13-14 50-yard free, Owen set a new LSC record in 22.75, cutting a tenth off Gaby Van Brunt’s 2019 mark of 22.85. In December, she broke the Georgia 15-16 50-yard freestyle record of Weir, lowering her time to 22.21.

 “I think a lot of upperclassmen are actually chasing her because she’s one of the fastest girls in the state of Georgia,” Owen’s club coach Justin Yuan said. “She sets a standard for the team. The way she trains; she leads a lot by example. She’s always leading the lane and keeping everybody on track.”

 Yuan said the additional work Owen puts in doesn’t go unnoticed, as she dropped her 100-yard free time from 51.06 to 49.48 in the span of two months.

“She’s always trying to give me excuses to do more yardage,” Yuan said. “She also goes far beyond what we do in the pool. She does a lot outside the pool, and I think that’s what really makes her stand out as an athlete. It’s the commitment that she has to swim.”

 In February 2023, Owen was ranked as the second-fastest in her national age group. She also finished  No. 18 in the all-time rankings for the 100 free in her age group.

 “I love competing,” Owen said. “I think it’s really fun. There’s so many awesome people I’ve got to meet in the sport through racing and my teammates. They’re just really amazing and definitely brighten up my day, so I really love seeing them, and I’m grateful I get to practice with everyone.”

Junior teammate and friend Katya Tumanova said Owen is an inspiration for the team.

“I can’t imagine our team without Sarah Paisley,” Tumanova said. “She is an integral part of our team and our practices. There is no doubt that Sarah Paisley is an extraordinary swimmer. She works harder than anyone; she has incredible diligence and motivation, and this pays off at competitions. For the work that she puts into the sport, she deserves her results more than anyone.”

Owen qualified for the Olympic trials on Aug. 5, at the 2023 Speedo Junior National Championships after swimming a 50-meter freestyle in a time of 25.61, beating another one of Weir’s age group records.

“I’m definitely really proud of myself for qualifying,” Owen said. “At first, I felt like I didn’t really believe that it had happened yet. It’s something I’ve been really wanting to do for a long time, and I finally did it, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this actually happened,’ and it was so surreal, and I feel like it still kind of feels that way now.”

Chuck Owen, Owen’s dad, attributes her success to her resilience.

“When she was 9 years old, she actually fell and broke her arm and had to get a cast, and then once she got out of that, she could barely move her arm,” Chuck Owen said. “But by the end of that season, at the state meet, she was able to win a butterfly race, a 50-meter free and a 100-meter free.”

Owen said her perseverance and hard work have gotten her this far.

“I really like working hard, and even though practices can be really challenging and really tiring, and it hurts, sometimes, I like that challenge,” Owen said. “I feel like that sets me apart because I don’t like to just stop when it hurts. I like to keep going, and I also have a great support system; my friends and family have really helped me keep going.”

On top of being a top-ranked swimmer in Georgia, Owen also has a black belt in Taekwondo, which she earned before she started swimming. Chuck Owen said what makes her unique among athletes is her ability to use skills she learned in Taekwondo.

 “I think her attention to details sets her apart,” Chuck Owen said. “I think that comes with the Taekwondo she did. She is able to take what coaches tell her, and she actually listens, and then she implements it, and she’s able to do what they say, and she doesn’t take shortcuts. She never takes shortcuts; she always does the whole thing.”

 Owen said she hopes her perseverance and hard work will pay off during the high school swim season and at the Olympic Trials.

 “It would be great to make [the USA’s Olympic Team]; that’s definitely a goal,” Owen said. “There are also other teams I can make from that trials meet, even if it’s not the Olympic team. I’m excited to really get myself out there; getting that experience is really important to me because even if I don’t make this one, I still have the next trial opportunity.”

 Yuan said because Owen is continuously accomplishing her goals, they are rapidly changing.

“She’s always trying to push herself to be the very best athlete she can be,” Yuan said. “She’s not afraid of anything. When racing against people who are much taller than her or swimming in a very hostile, big environment, the one thing I’ve always noticed is that she’s unwavering. She never lacks confidence. She knows exactly what she needs to do; that’s why I believe she could make the Olympic team one day.”



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Cate Barton
Cate Barton, Sports Managing Editor
Cate Barton is a junior and this is her third year writing for The Southerner. She enjoys soccer, basketball, running and hanging out with friends. She is excited to continue writing for The Southerner.

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