Incoming senior hopes to add more state titles to her resume

by: JOSH KULLA - West Linn's Brie Balsbough has some of the top times in the nation in her age group in both the 50 freestyle and 100 breaststroke.Brie Balsbough is embarking on one of the brief “down” periods of her year if there is such a thing. As one of the nation's top high school swimmers, Balsbough's routine involves hours of practice each day and multiple high-profile meets throughout the year, many which involve long travel days and grueling days of competition.

With all of the time commitments it takes to be an elite-level swimmer, many of the state's top competitors opt to only participate in swim club when they are in high school and bypass the school team.

But Baslbough was counting down the days until she could represent West Linn in the pool.

“I had a few friends who swam for Lake Oswego Swim Club and they talked about how much fun it was, so when I finally got into high school I was pretty excited,” Balsbough said.

And Balsbough quickly made her impact felt on the high school level. She is one of the fastest swimmers in the state, thriving in the 50 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke in particular.

As a freshman, Balsbough took fourth in the 50 free and seventh in the breaststroke. As a sophomore, she won the 50 freestyle state title in a thrilling final by one-hundredth of a second and was third in the breaststroke.

Last season, Balsbough took second in both of her individual events but helped the Lions win a state title in the medley relay and a third-place finish in the 200 freestyle relay.

She also helped West Linn take third in state as a team, its best finish in decades.

And Baslbough has high expectations heading into her final high school season.

“I'm hoping to win all of my events next year and just go faster,” Balsbough said.

Growing up, Balsbough competed in virtually every sport that she could and thrived in the majority of them. She was particularly strong in soccer but she became interested in swimming in third grade when a classmate gave a show-and- tell presentation.

“She came in with a big board that had all of her ribbons and medals on it and I came home and said I wanted to swim so I could get ribbons too. I think that was my competitive nature kicking in,” Balsbough said.

She took to the sport quickly with her natural athleticism helping her out.

As she began to have success swimming, it became clear that she would have to eventually make a choice between swimming and soccer.

“I think I probably loved soccer more, but I was better at swimming,” Balsbough said.

When the decision was made, Balsbough threw herself into the sport and her training has helped her reach an elite level.

While Olympic-caliber swimmers have predominantly come from heavily populated warm weather states like California and Florida, Oregon, in recent years has churned out some top-tier talent. At the high school level, the breaststroke in particular is as strong as perhaps it ever has been in the state.

Reaching the Olympics is the ultimate goal for Balsbough but first she has to finish her senior season and decide on a college.

Balsbough was out of town on July 1, the first day that colleges can contact high school athletes and received 35 voice mails, which she spent weeks sifting through.

“I've had to learn how to talk with coaches. I've never had this kind of experience before. It's been fun,” Baslbough said.

She has made official visits to a trio of Big 10 schools in Wisconsin, Purdue and Minnesota.

Her final meet of the summer is on Aug. 10 and she will then have a few weeks to catch her breath before school starts.

During the school year there will be many more meets, some of which will pit her against some of the top swimmers in the nation, including the Junior Nationals in December.

That time away from school has forced Balsbough to be exceptionally organized.

“You have to be very scheduled. I usually try to get all of my work done beforehand or occasionally on the plane,” Balsbough said.

Balsbough's times are close to qualifying her for the Olympic trials already, and with Division I training, she may easily take the next step.

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