FARMINGTON — Not many high school athletes get the opportunity to pursue an athletic career at the college level, but Farmington High's Maria Madera and Emma Walsh will.
The two seniors landed spots on women's swim teams at their respective schools — Madera at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minn., and Walsh at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, both Division III schools.
"I'm pretty excited to literally get my feet wet," Walsh said of starting her college swimming career. "I've been pretty sold on Southwestern for the last two years. When I visited it, I was like, 'Oh, yeah, I love it here. I'm going here.'"
Continuing their swimming careers at the next level has been an idea the two have been thinking about for the past couple of seasons.
"I know they were talking about swimming in college," said third-year Farmington head coach Mike Ortiz. "Not many people explore Division III, but once they saw that they could be part of a team, as they are now, they just kind of flourished off of that."
Ortiz said both swimmers entered the season more determined to improve.
"This year, Emma was sold on the program from the beginning, and it really opened up her potential. And that is something that I absolutely adore in her," he said. "And Maria is always a fighter. She has a lot of tenacity, and she'll fight through a lot of stuff. She's always out there when I need her, and she always performs."
Madera and Walsh served as co-captains for the Lady Scorps this season, and, during the past five years on the team, they have helped build the swimming program at Farmington High.
"They've put a face to the program and have taken it upon themselves to be ambassadors for our school, and it has helped immensely," Ortiz said.
Madera's best events are the 50-meter freestyle and the 100-meter backstroke. She placed second at the District 1 championships this season, and she'll have the opportunity to compete in those events at St. Catherine's.
Madera said her coach at St. Catherine's will make everyone try every event, but since Madera is the only one on the team with backstroke experience, she can make it her main focus.
Walsh has an idea of what events she'll focus on but is willing to take on new ones if it is what's best for the team.
"The impression that I got was that I'm going to be in sprint and mid-distance freestyle," said Walsh, who specializes in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle. "But everything is subject to change, so we'll see."
When Madera and Walsh enter their freshman seasons, possibly competing in new events, Ortiz sees no reason why either girl won't find success.
"It's endless," Ortiz said of Madera's and Walsh's potential. "Those two have a ceiling that's as high as the sky. They're both going to be middle-of-the-pack in their programs, so they'll have girls pushing them to where they need to be. Their potential is as much as they want to be. They'll be as good as they want to be, and I can see them getting much better."