MORGANTOWN — The freestyle can be one of the most pure athletic abilities if done correctly. For most, it is known as the “front stroke,” one of the most basic forms of swimming we learn during the earlier years of swimming lessons.
Pulling both of your arms through the water and breaching back out past your ear and into the water again. Your head tilts to the side while your arm is still underwater to catch your breath.
Your feet whip up and down in opposite directions as you glide over the top of the water in a straight line from one end of the pool to the other.
The beauty of the stroke is one reason Morgantown High’s McKenna Moore has it at the top of her list.
“When I swim freestyle, it feels as if I’m gliding through the water and I love that feeling,” she said. “Freestyle is such an attractive stroke — if you were to watch someone swim, it’s really beautiful. The way the water moves around the swimmer is truly incredible.”
Moore, a sophomore with the Mohigans, became one of the most consistent freestyle swimmers for MHS, which, along with University High celebrated Senior Night in a dual meet, at the WVU Natatorium on Jan. 26.
Approaching the regional and state swim meets over the next few weeks, she finished third in the 200-yard freestyle at the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference meet on Jan. 20, with a time of 2:04.67. Moore, along with teammates Abigail Riggs, Abby Vorhees and Riley Pierce, also helped the 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams finish second.
Moore also competes in the butterfly and the individual medley relay.
She started taking swimming lessons as a 5-year-old while living in Ohio, and when her family moved to West Virginia, she kept at it until one of her coaches made a suggestion when she was 8.
“She told me I no longer needed lessons and she pushed me toward competitive swimming,” Moore said. “Around that time, I fell in love with the rush of the sport, so I continued to swim and really got into it.”
It didn’t come without a little hesitation, though. Moore said swimming is just as much mental as it is physical. Swimming takes a lot of hours and dedication to try and master it. When she first decided to swim competitively, it was a juggling act between school and other extra curricular activities.
Everything else needs to be put aside before practice or a meet.
“A lot of people think that we do laps for 2-4 hours, but your head has to be in the right mindset before you jump into the pool,” Moore said.
After her freshman year, it started to become easier, despite the changes in the coaching staff. Michelle Stambaugh was replaced this season by Matt Jernigan, but Moore said the transition has gone well.
“At first, it was really hard to lose Michelle, but our new coach, Mr. Jernigan, has been there to help us. Having the assistant coach [John Pettit] here both of my years has really helped.”
Moore has been a coach herself, even as a sophomore. There are many newcomers who aren’t just new to the team, but swimming in general.
“I try to help them out with their strokes and techniques, and just navigating the sport,” she said.
Moore and the Mohigans will compete at the state swim meet, set for Feb. 15-16, at the WVU Natatorium.