All-County Swimming: Girls Swimmer of the Year
Sat. December 31, 2011 at 2:00 p.m. | By Polk Preps Staff
Bekah Howard, age 15 Sophmore at Oasis Christian Academy, Swimmer of the Year (Photo by Pierre Ducharme | THE LEDGER)
By BILL KEMP
LEDGER MEDIA GROUP
The Howard name might not be an official synonym for Polk County girls swimming, but it’s making a strong push.
Rebekah Howard’s name surfaces so often it seems like she’s been swimming for a lifetime. And she has: Her head coach put her in the pool when she was just six months old.
The Oasis Christian Academy standout made her fourth-straight appearance at a Florida High School Athletic Association state meet this year, and she’s only a sophomore. Remarkably, she qualified for her first state meet as a seventh-grader in 2007.
This year, Howard placed ninth in the breaststroke at the FHSAA Class 1A swim meet in November, winning the consolation finals at the YMCA Aquatic Center in Orlando.
She took first place in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard breaststroke at both the county and 1A-5 district meets.
She is the 2011-12 Polkpreps.com girls swimmer of the year for the second consecutive year.
“It’s very exciting,” Howard said. “It’s hard (to top the previous year) because I started out really strong as a freshman. I was doing well, but then it is hard to always be getting better. I just try to keep beating my times and not worry about other people too much.”
At the state meet, Howard’s 1:07:01 breaststroke mark was fractions of a second faster than eighth-place finisher Emma Madden of Pine School (Stuart).
“You can’t move up,” Howard said, who plans on using the state outcome as motivation for her junior season. “Yes, it’s about having a good morning swim. ... My goal is to hit 1:06 and get into the top eight.”
Oasis Christian coach Linda Howard is Rebekah’s mother. She began coaching in Missouri with USA Swimming and eventually started the prep program at Oasis, previously known as Haven Christian Academy.
“Rebekah had started placing in the top eight in Florida Swimming in the breaststroke as a 9-year-old,” Linda said.
“Mechanically, she has a strong kick and good technique on her starts. She is really a natural at it. A lot of it has to do with her leg strength and she is a strong competitor.”
Linda’s oldest daughter, Sarah, was The Ledger’s 2007 girls swimmer of the year and is a member of the University of Arkansas women’s swim team. Her youngest daughter, Hannah, an eighth-grader, also swims at Oasis.
“Bekah and Hannah were in the water at six months because I taught swimming. They were both on the USA team at 4 years old,” Linda said.
“Our family has pretty big history in swimming. There is always a lot of pride when I watch my daughters swim.”
Though Rebekah has two more years to hit her state swim meet goals, she also is working on a dance career.
“I’m like really into my dancing. I would love to go to NYU and possibly swim there,” she said. “I would love to be on Broadway. I went to a Broadway show this summer and it was awesome.”