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North senior swimmer Abbey Lassley will compete in two events at the Class 6A meet in Topeka.

North senior swimmer Abbey Lassley will compete in two events at the Class 6A meet in Topeka. Mike Hutmacher/The Wichita Eagle | Buy this photo

North swimmer Abbey Lassley having fun again

Published May 22 at 5:43 p.m. | Last updated May 22 at 5:43 p.m.

Throughout Abbey Lassley’s swimming career, the North senior has run into the proverbial wall many times. It’s the wall that she slammed into time and again before busting through to better times and improvement.

The wall in 2013, though, was taller, thicker, even more frustrating. But she defeated it.

And as Lassley enters her final Class 6A swimming meet on Friday and Saturday, there’s a sense of peace.

“This whole year has kind of been a little more laid back for me, I think,” said Lassley, who will swim the 200-yard individual medley and the 100 backstroke. “I know where I’m going to college (Tampa on a swimming scholarship). There’s not as much pressure to take off a lot of time at this meet.

“I’m more aiming for it to be fun instead of stressful.”

The 2013 season didn’t have a whole lot of fun.

In 2012, Lassley won the Class 6A 100 backstroke in 59.22 seconds and finished second in the 50 free in 24.85. But she hurt herself in the summer while lifting weights.

“I got a back injury doing dead lifts and my back tweaked,” she said. “It wasn’t really the same after that.”

Her club season was delayed, and then in December 2012 she tweaked her back again, this time by simply leaning over to pick up her swim cap.

“The thing that kept me going was college,” Lassley said. “That’s what kept me in the water.… It was tough going to practice. That has definitely always been my downfall. Practice is not fun to go to. It’s grueling.”

And at state last year she finished eighth in the 100 back, more than a full second slower that her 2012 time, and was seventh in the 50 free.

“I wasn’t too happy with my performance,” Lassley said.

“I think with all she had going on, with the injury, that she was where she needed to be,” said Lassley’s father, Scott. “But she wasn’t happy with where she was at.”

He tried to give her perspective, tried to help her realize that she had raced well. Considering she’d been out of the water for about a month. Considering her back pain. Considering she had to do open turns instead of flip turns, which slowed her.

That Abbey Lassley returned ready to improve was what North coach Megan Von Fange expected.

“Abbey Lassley is a fighter,” Von Fange said. “Above all, she wants to compete. It’s frustrating for her to be a little off her times. We’ve tried her in different races. She’s good about being flexible and trying new things, but she wants to compete and do well when she competes.”

Lassley’s frustration rarely shows publicly. She talks to her dad after every race, analyzing, discussing necessary improvements.

With her teammates, though, she’s more of a coach, willing to help or give advice to anyone.

“She’ll help out a ton,” Von Fange said. “She has that goofy smile on her face. Even though she’s hit some tough times, she hasn’t lost her spirit, spunk and fight.

“You can hit those walls sometimes, and her spirit and attitude breaking through it has been awesome.”

Lassley had been swimming well this season, but there was a bit of a breakthrough at the City League meet at North’s new pool.

She won the 200 individual medley and was third in the 100 free.

“She was maintaining, but not super fast,” Scott Lassley said. “But she swam better that night than she figured.”

Her previous best 200 IM had been a 2:23, and Lassley won in 2:16.

For Lassley to finish her career with a state title won’t be easy.

“She’s going to have to show up and put up some of her best times,” Von Fange said. “She’ll have to go back to times from sophomore year.”

In that respect, there is still a wall that Lassley must overcome.

“Throughout my career I’ve had so many walls like that. I’ve wanted to quit so many times,” she said. “Not walls as bad as that one, but this sport is so demanding. That junior wall was prettty tough to get through.”

She was rejuvenated in a December meet in Oklahoma City with her club team when she 58.1 in the back.

“I cut in all my races, except for like two,” she said. “That light switched on, ‘I could win state again.’ It definitely brought my spirits up a bit.

“And state, I’m just excited to see everybody and be in that state environment. Being at state is so much fun.… It’s the atmosphere, so many people cheering and going crazy.”

Reach Joanna Chadwick at 316-268-6270 or jchadwick@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @joannachadwick.