110917-spt-century-swimmer

Century High School swimmer Vanessa Herrmann swims in her final high school meet this year at the state meet, beginning on Friday.

MIKE MCCLEARY, TRIBUNE

Vanessa Herrmann has big dreams for her swimming career.

Based on past results, it'd be foolish to bet against the Century High School swimming star.

The five-time state champion looks to finish off her prep career in style at the state swimming meet at the Bismarck Aquatics & Fitness Center. The meet begins today.

While there is little doubt who will win the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke, Herrmann's two events, she is leaving little to chance.

"Going into a meet like this I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to do better than I have before, how can I improve my times and most importantly how can I help out my team," she said. "As a team, we want to be at our best, especially at the state meet."

Herrmann has won three straight titles in the 100-meter breaststroke, she also owns the state record (1:02.75). In the 200 IM, she's the two-time defending champ. She also is part of the Patriots' virtually unbeatable 200 medley and 400 freestyle relay teams with juniors Briana Rittenbach and Carly Palmer and freshman Lexi Duchsherer.

None of Herrmann's accomplishments have surprised Kathy Aspaas, coach of the two-time defending state champion Patriots.

"No. 1, she works really hard. Secondly, she's very good at setting goals and not losing sight of those goals. And when she sets goals and achieves them, she's very good at resetting," Aspaas said. "Vanessa is very talented, but she's also very driven."

Where that drive takes her only time will tell, but she's aiming high.

"Right now my goal is to swim in the Olympic Trials and see how far I can get in that meet," she said.

The Trials, held in Omaha shortly before the 2020 Olympics Games in Tokyo, are still a couple years away. In the meantime, Herrmann will be plenty busy competing at the NCAA Division I level at the University of Arkansas.

During the recruiting process, Arkansas and the University of Tennessee -- both of the SEC -- contacted Herrmann directly. She took official visits to both schools before Arkansas's scholarship offer won out. She plans to study kinesiology with a career in physical therapy or athletic training down the road.

"Both schools were amazing. I couldn't go wrong with either," she said.

Aspaas said it typically takes major effort for North Dakota swimmers to be found by major colleges.

"Part of it is that you're a small fish in a big sea," she said. "It's not something that is just going to fall in your lap. You have to market yourself."

Many of the swimmers on the Century team do that by swimming in large club meets during the summer with the Aquastorm.

"One of the biggest reasons our high school team is so successful is because of what the club team does," Aspaas said. "That keeps the kids motivated and wanting to improve. They're always seeing that there are better swimmers out there.

"Just because you're the best in North Dakota, doesn't mean you're the best."

Competing against the best has been very beneficial for Herrmann, who focuses on more than just technique.

"One of the biggest things for top athletes in swimming or any sport is having the right attitude and the mental strength to push through times when you're sore or when you're not feeling your best," she said. "Having the determination to dig deep and use your mind to push through makes things 10 times better when you're able to achieve your goal.

"That's what I've tried to improve on and what I feel like has made a really positive impact in how I approach everything."

Reach Tribune sports editor Dave Selvig at (701) 250-8246 or david.selvig@bismarcktribune.com

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