Courtney Fast of Hillsboro turned a love of swimming into something special. Now coaching the Hillsboro Swim Team, the 2012 applied mathematics graduate of Fresno Pacific University will be watching late June Olympic Swim Trials with interest, and hopes she will see familiar faces on the podium in July during the summer Olympics.
“Three of the swimmers from my team, one of them my best friend, qualified for the time trials in Nebraska at the end of June,” Fast said. “I so wish I could be there, but I will be following them closely with online streaming.”
Just four months ago, Fast and her university swim team won the NAIA nationals in Las Vegas, Nev.
“It was by the grace of God that I was able to get through all of the training and reach my goal of qualifying for nationals,” she said. “For the past four years I ate, slept, and lived for swimming.”
Fast’s climb to swimming success began when she was 6-years-old and joined the recreational swim team in Hillsboro.
“I’ve just always loved the water,” she said. “It’s where I have always felt the most comfortable. I just love swimming.”
Maybe it was a stroke of luck or one of those meant-to-be-moments that opened the door of opportunity for Fast to continue her pursuit of swimming success in college when she was a senior at Hillsboro High School.
“The president of Fresno-Pacific was a Tabor College graduate and happened to be in Hillsboro the spring of my senior year,” Fast said. “Somehow he heard of my swim team achievements and that I wanted to swim in college. He made arrangements to meet with me.”
Fresno-Pacific started a collegiate swim team in 2007, so when Fast signed a letter of intent to swim with the Dolphins, she joined a program in its second year of upper level competition.
“I learned so much there,” Fast said. “We had a phenomenal coach, Peter Richardson, who helped me cut tons of time off my races.”
Fast specialized in the freestyle, and though it was a big adjustment for her to go from swimming competitively for six weeks in summer to six or seven months of grueling double-day practices, she thrived in the environment.
“At first I was getting lapped by my teammates,” Fast said. “But by the end of my second season I was placing and earning points for my team.”
Adversity was a constant companion for Fast throughout her competitive collegiate swimming career.
“I had two shoulder surgeries to tighten up my labrums,” she said. “I also had bursitis in my right shoulder, so they fixed that after my freshman season.”
The first shoulder surgery put Fast in a pillow sling for six months, and she spent her entire sophomore year of college as a red-shirt athlete in rehabilitation. The second surgery took place between her sophomore and junior year, while she spent the summer at home in Hillsboro.
“I coached and swam for my hometown the summer after my freshman year, because I was still 18,” Fast said. “Then I came back and coached again after my sophomore year because I just love the kids.”
After coaching the summer of her sophomore year, Fast signed up with USA swimming and joined the Wichita Swim Club for competition.
“They have a really nice facility, and I really enjoyed that,” she said.
When Fast returned to Fresno, Calif., for her senior year of college, she was determined to put injuries and rehabilitation behind her and pursue a goal of qualifying for nationals.
“One of my fellow swimmers that made the Olympic team, hooked me up with a professional weight trainer that he used to improve his times,” she said. “I was power-lift training five times a week, swimming twice daily four times a week, and still going to classes.”
The schedule was grueling, but the dedication and hard work paid off for Fast, as she again shaved additional time off her personal bests and achieved 24.97 in the 50 free, and 55.3 in the 100 free.
“My goal was to get to nationals, and I made the cut,” she said. “That was an awesome experience, especially when we took home the NAIA team trophy.”
Back home in Hillsboro, Fast plans to continue coaching the Hillsboro Swim Team, teaching her mentees tricks of the trade she learned in college. She also works as an ophthalmic technician in Wichita and plans to put her mathematics degree to further use, taking her actuary test after the swim season is over this summer.
She admits that while she will be crunching numbers for business owners in the near future, her heart will always be in the water, and her eyes on the development of the U.S. Olympic swim team.