Swimming is a sport that rewards perseverance.
For Mansfield sophomores-to-be Sara and Ryan McClendon, they should be reaping more of those rewards as they continue their summer training with the local club team.
Already, Sara – oldest sister by one minute – has a state meet appearance to her credit in her freshman year. Ryan finished second to Sara at the district meet in the 500m Free.
The sisters started swimming at the age of eight. Ryan spent a few years running cross country but has returned to swimming to be a part of the Tigers swim team.
Even though it was Ryan running cross country for a time, it’s Sara who has the propensity to excel in the distance events, such as the 500m event. She finished 10th at the state meet.
In addition to the 500 Free, in which Sara placed third in the regional meet, she also competed in the 200m Free. Ryan also swam the 100m Free at the district meet and was 15th at regionals in the 500m.
As competitive as they are in the pool, the McClendons said they aren’t ultra-competitive with each other as siblings.
“Sara’s a natural-born swimmer,” Ryan said. “We’ve always been on the same team, but Sara got bigger and progressed faster and went to the faster teams.”
The twins said they are complete opposites in addition to their different stature and appearance. Sara, 5-8, with red hair, has almost a four-inch height advantage over the brunette Ryan.
“People don’t believe we’re even sisters, much less twins,” Ryan added.
The size difference is a definitive advantage, allowing a swimmer to pull water easier and move faster through the water.
Sara said swimming was a better fit than other sports for her, and she wants to make the most of her summer.
“I have two-a-day workouts and do weight training and compete,” Sara said. “We’re pretty excited about going to a travel meet in Florida,” she said of the late summer plans.
“My goal is to cut the times on all my events and always keep improving my technique and strokes and focus on the mental aspect,” Sara said.
Ryan said she doesn’t compete in all the same events as her sister and enjoys mixing things up and seeing how she can improve in her weaker events during the summer season.
“I don’t compete as much in the summer,” Ryan said, “but I have a lot more fun in the high school environment, being around all my friends, and I love my team. I think Sara feels the same,” she said of the chemistry amongst the Mansfield squad.
The girls’ mother, Beth McClendon, knows the rigors and rewards of swimming. Her older daughter, Riley, a Mansfield grad, is now competing for Florida Southern College in Lakeland.
“The girls have been devoted students of the sport,” Beth said. “It will be exciting to watch them develop their talents and contribute to their team over the next three years. Mansfield is fortunate to have talented coaches and an amazing facility to support our middle school, high school and club programs.”
What may be in store for the girls are additional district and regional places in addition to more state meet appearances.
For Sara, she already holds school records in the 500m and 200m Free events.
“Hopefully in our sophomore years I can do more, shorter events,” said Ryan. Sara said she hopes to get even stronger in the distance events but may add the backstroke to her competitive events.
Regardless of the hurdles ahead for the McClendons, they realize competing in the new, larger Class 6A will be a challenge.
“Everyone just gets more talented and we hope to keep cutting our time,” said Ryan.