Opp swimmer wins state championship

Published 9:27 am Thursday, December 20, 2018

Opp High School Junior Emma Younce is the first Alabama High School Athletic Association State Champion swimmer for OHS in the 50-yard freestyle event with a time of 24.52 seconds.

Younce started swimming competitively when she was eight years old.

“I started swimming in the summers when I was eight years old,” Younce said. “In the sixth grade I started swimming competitively year round.”

Almost daily, Younce drives to Troy or Dothan for practice, because even though swimming is an individual sport, practicing with a team makes it easier for her.

“I guess you could be your own team since it is an individual sport,” Younce said. “But I like having a team because it makes it easier on me.”

She said that she prepared for the state championship all year by practicing extra hard.

“Since I swim all year, I don’t really have an off season,” Younce said. “But to prepare for this all I did was practice extra hard.”

Younce is no stranger to the awards podium. OHS Principal Aaron Hightower said that she has constantly improved from her freshman year when she first won third place at state.

“I think my first time on the podium I was in ninth grade,” Younce said. “Then my sophomore year I got second place and now first place my junior year. I think that this year I was a little more focused on swimming only. Last year, I played volleyball as well so I wasn’t able to put 100 percent into swimming so I think being able to completely focus on swimming helped get me to first place.”

Younce said that being able to represent Opp meant the world to her.

“I am very proud to be able to represent Opp in this competition,” Younce said. “Opp is not a super well known school, so I hope it opens peoples’ eyes that you can have a future in swimming if you come from Opp.”

Traveling almost every day for swim practice and studying to ace the ACT can be a lot on a junior’s plate, but Younce said that she tries to balance everything as best as she can.

“It is definitely a lot,” Younce said. “Especially with this being my junior year and I’m trying to make a good grade on the ACT. I get a lot less sleep, so summers are a lot easier than during the school year, but I try my best to stay balanced.”

The people that inspire Younce are not only Olympian swimmers, but swimmers from Covington County that have gone off to the collegiate level to swim.

“Of course I have all of those Olympian swimmers that I look up to,” Younce said. “But the ones that really inspire me are the people that I looked up to while I was swimming right along side them. Mary Beth Baker and B.J. Donaldson, they both came from the same area and are swimming in college and I look up to them because they came from the same area I am from.”

Hightower mentioned that Younce was always competing against the same girl in every competition and she would always be a couple of seconds behind her. The two ended up being close friends through the years.

“I always ended up being right behind her,” Younce said. “But we train and practice together so we are always competing against each other. Whenever I won this championship, I went up and hugged her afterwards. I only beat her by a couple tenths of a second.”

Since the announcement of the new Covington County Barricudas Swim Team in Opp, Younce believes that this will be a great opportunity to show people that there is a future in the sport.

“It is obviously a good thing for the swimmers that are already going,” Younce said. “Swimming is definitely hard, but I would choose to do it over and over again if I had the choice. I think that having this team in Opp could open so many possibilities for other swimmers in the future.”

Younce said that she wants to pursue collegiate swimming.

“I definitely want to pursue swimming on the collegiate level,” Younce said. “And I have a couple of coaches looking at me, but I don’t know exactly where I want to go yet. I also don’t really know what I want to study at this point either, maybe something in the area of health.”

Younce also placed third in the 100 yard fly event, with a time of 1:00.25.

She is the daughter of Christy and William Younce.