By Ed Yevelev
Staff Writer, Marin Independent-Journal
Ask Claire Beaty what drew her to swimming and you'll get a revealing answer.
While she loves the team atmosphere, Novato High's senior standout recognizes — and enjoys — the fact that individual effort determines success.
"In the end, it's solely based on you," said Beaty, the MCAL's returning runner-up in the 100-yard breaststroke. "You can't blame anyone else. ... I like taking that responsibility for myself."
Such resolve has helped Beaty reach potential that even she never thought possible.
Her recent accomplishments — a trip to this year's junior nationals in Orlando and a swimming scholarship to Cal State East Bay — were never a given. Early on, Beaty never considered herself a college prospect
"I didn't think I was good enough," she said. "I didn't really know if I was capable."
Beaty was strong and athletic coming into the Marin Pirates' year-round program as a freshman, but still raw. Swimming one of the most technically challenging events, her approach needed refinement. While a powerful kick helped fuel her breaststroke, Beaty's arm pull needed work — both in the positioning and the synchronization with her legs.
"A lot of kids who swim at the national and college level reveal themselves very early," Marin Pirates coach Warren Lager said. "(For Claire) it's been a longer haul. It's taken lots of dedication, perseverance and sacrifice, but she's really blossomed."
She's done so by working and working, enduring the 14-to-17 hours of weekly practices in order to improve. That included waking up at 4:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursday for the first of two workouts.
("Now, it's weird if I don't do it," Beaty joked.)
Results were not immediate — "there were days where it just wasn't happening," Lager recalled — but proved incredibly rewarding when they arrived.
The big breakthrough came at last May's MCAL meet, when Beaty placed second behind Tam's Brigitte Winkler in the 100 breast. Beaty's time of 1 minute, 7.45 seconds clinched a trip to junior nationals and smashed her previous best by a full second.
College interest came right around that time, and only served as motivation. The same went for junior nationals in March, where she competed in the 100- and 200 breast and did a time trial in the 200 individual medley. Beaty didn't swim as fast as she would have liked, but still relished the experience.
This spring, Beaty hopes to lock down top-three finishes at MCALs in both the 100 breast and 200 IM (which she took fourth in last year). A team captain for the Hornets, she is an important leader on a young, rebuilding squad that lost 16 seniors.
"She really encourages people," Novato coach Liz Evers said. "She's well-respected and kids look up to her. They want to swim as fast as she does."
Beaty, who hopes to study kinesiology in college, also excels in the classroom with a 3.9 GPA and has been involved in student leadership since freshman year. She helps put on student body activities, including spirit events, fund raisers and a recent fashion show that took months of planning.
"There's a lot of work involved," she said, "but I've really enjoyed it."
Inside the pool and out, the work has been rewarded.