It was the hot San Antonio summers that forced Samantha Shelton into the pool when she was six years old.
“The weather there is super hot in Texas, so [my sister and I] joined the nearby summer league team,” says Shelton. “Right as I dove in, I’ve always loved the feel of the water on [my] skin. It’s opened me up and brought me free.”
The Santa Margarita High School junior has found her place as a swimmer, specializing in the 100 and 200 yard freestyle events for the Eagles. The high energy and quick pace of the sprints are where Shelton belongs.
“I love those races because the 100 free is…all out,” says Shelton. “The 200 free is a longer sprint, so you kind of have to be smart with your plan, but still go fast.”
Shelton is coming off of a breakout year, with an appearance in Singapore in August of 2015 where she represented her country for the first time as a part of the USA Swimming FINA World Junior Championships team.
Back home, she helped the Eagles girls swim team take their third consecutive CIF-SS Division 1 Championship this past spring, where Shelton’s 200 freestyle time ended up ranked as the second fastest high school time in the country for 2016. Her leadership and performance earned her the O.C. Register Girls Swimmer of the Year award.
After the school year wrapped up, the 16-year old headed to Omaha, Nebraska, where she swam three events at the U.S. Olympic Team Swim Trials. Co-head swimming coach at Santa Margarita, Ron Blanc, says that Shelton’s confidence has grown and her potential is unlimited.
“Samantha’s growth in leadership has been impressive to witness these past two years,” says Blanc. “She’s gone from a somewhat shy student to being voted as a team captain for her junior year. We are excited to think about how fast Samantha will swim at the end of the high school season, and she will be a leader in our attempt to win our school’s fourth consecutive CIF Swimming Championship.”
Away from the pool, the Laguna Beach resident is launching a charity organization called Samantha’s Shelf, with a mission of raising funds to provide Christmas gifts for families in need. With her eyes on swimming for a Division I college program, as well as a goal of making the U.S. Olympic swim team in 2020, Shelton leans on her parents who help her get through “the hard times of swimming” as well as her faith, which keeps her balanced and focused.
“I pray that I have the guidance to balance both academics and swimming at the same time and to not get off track,” says Shelton. “I feel like that’s a huge aspect at Santa Margarita…I feel like my faith has really helped me a lot.”