McClain senior Peyton Voss has been breaking school swimming records since her freshman year, and her streak continued through her very last race as a Lady Tiger Shark.
When Voss began her McClain swimming career, the school’s record for the girls’ 200-yard freestyle event was 2:20; the record for the girls’ 500-yard freestyle was 6:13, both of which were set in 2008 by S. Elrhanjaoui and S.Williams, respectively.
On McClain’s senior night meet during Voss’ freshman year, she broke both records.
“I was actually kind of astonished,” Voss said. “That was the first time I’d competitively swam the 200. My coach refused to put me in it all year, and then finally, on senior night, one of her seniors didn’t want to swim it, so she put me into it. I swam it, and I got a 2:19, and at the time nobody knew I’d broken the record. Then my mom ran up to me as I was getting ready for my 500, and she was like, ‘Peyton, you broke the record!’ and I was like, ‘Mom, I haven’t even swam the 500 yet,’ and she was like, ‘No, the 200 record!’ I was like, ‘What? No way. That was the first time I swam it. You have to be kidding.’ She showed me pictures of the record board. I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, I did that.’”
Her next event was the 500-yard freestyle, and her adrenaline was flowing.
“I was like, ‘OK, this 500 is going to be a good one.’ I got in, and I dropped 13 seconds,” Voss said. “At the meet before, I’d swam a 6:25, and I dropped 13 seconds to get 6:12, breaking the record.”
As soon as she saw her time, Voss said she knew she’d beaten the record.
“I had the time — the 6:13 that was standing — engraved in my brain,” Voss said. “I knew the time, and I knew what I had to swim to beat it. It was crazy. When I finally finished that race, and I saw the 6:12, I was like, ‘There’s no way,’ and my mom was jumping in the corner, crying, and my dad was shaking his head and had his thumbs up. Then they had to pull me out of the pool because I was dead.”
Voss said she worked hard to break that record that year.
“Freshman year, I was set on getting the record,” Voss said. “I had continuously dropped like 10 seconds each swim. I would go to two practices a day: I’d go to my practices, and then I’d do the boys’ practices with my brother.”
Voss credits her brother, Avery, as the reason she started swimming in sixth grade.
“He was two years ahead of me, and he joined the swim team,” Voss said. “I’ve always looked up to him, so I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, I want to be like my brother and do swimming.’”
Voss said competing with her brother during the boys’ practices helped her beat the records her first year.
“I would compete to try to beat him every single time,” Voss said. “I was determined to get better than he was. That helped tremendously.”
Though Voss stopped practicing with the boys’ team after her freshman year, she continued to break records. During her junior year, Voss broke her own 200-yard freestyle record after she swam a 2:13.
She also continued to swim the 500-yard freestyle event from her freshman year through her junior year. However, for most of her last season, Voss swam the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard freestyle instead of the 500.
Then came the last week of the season.
“It was a crazy week. We had my senior night on Tuesday [Feb. 4], the league meet on Wednesday [Feb. 5], sectionals Saturday [Feb. 8], and then districts was that following Wednesday [Feb. 12],” Voss said. “I wanted to swim the 500 for my senior night because it’s my race. I swam the 500 at the league meet because my standing time was better, so my coach knew I was going to get first place and put me in. She put me in it for sectionals, and I was like, ‘OK, that’s not really what I was going for, but OK.’”
On her senior night, Voss swam the 500-yard freestyle event in 6:19. At the league meet the following day, she swam it in 6:14. At the sectional tournament, Voss swam the 500 in 6:09, qualifying her for the district tournament.
“I was like, ‘Oh my goodness,’” Voss said. “At that point, I was like, ‘This is my last time I’ll get to swim it,’ because I qualified for districts, so I was like, ‘This is going to be my last time swimming it — it’s going to be a good one.’”
At the Southeast District Tournament, Voss said she was seeded 21st out of 30 swimmers.
“That means if there are three heats of 10 people, I was going to be ranked number one in my heat,” Voss explained. “So I was ranked number one [in my heat] with a 6:09, and number two had a 6:10, and I was like, ‘Holy crap. I really need to go.’”
When Voss finished the 500 at districts, she knew she’d finished first.
“I knew I finished first, but I didn’t realize how far ahead of everyone I was,” Voss said. “I was maybe 25 yards ahead of everybody. Then they announced whose swim got the first-place time in the heat, and they said my name, but I didn’t hear the time. When I turned and looked at the board, I saw it said 6:01, and I was like, ‘There’s no way that’s my time.’ But then I tracked it over to my name, and I was like, ‘Holy crap.’ Everybody was like, ‘Where did that come from?’ I don’t know. In the span of a week, I ended up dropping 18 seconds because I hadn’t been training for it at all this year.”
Despite breaking her own records twice in one week, Voss did not qualify for the state-level competition.
“For around where we’re at, our league, I’ve been undefeated since my sophomore year, so that kind of puts it into perspective for around here,” Voss said. “Up at districts, I think the number one time for the girls’ 500 was 5:11. It was intense. That’s for Division 2, though, because our school’s a D2 school. But at the D1 schools, a 5:11 might be their slowest time. A lot of people dedicate their lives to swimming. They swim year-round, and they’ve been competitively swimming since they were 4 years old. It’s intense and very intimidating.”
Regardless, Voss is happy with her results.
“I’m extremely happy with it,” Voss said. “That was a great way, I feel, to end my swimming career.”
With her swimming career over, Voss is looking forward to meeting another goal.
“I’m graduating in May, and I’m currently enlisted in the United States Army,” Voss said. “I have a five-year contract as of right now, so I’ll be in the Army for the next five years, and I’ll probably end up re-enlisting because being in the United States military is something I’ve always, always looked forward to. That’s always been one of my goals. I have military parents, and the stories they told me and all the adventures they’ve been on — that excites me. And the travel. You basically get to travel the world for free. You do your job, you get paid, and you travel the world.”
When asked how she would feel when a future Lady Tiger Shark breaks her record, Voss said, “I would feel excited. I wouldn’t be jealous or anything like that because someone is setting their goals and reaching them. That’s something to be happy about, and I’d want to congratulate the person. You set a goal to reach it. If someone’s setting a goal to beat me, and they do — that’s something to be excited about, not envious or jealous or anything like that. That means other people are reaching their goals, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.