Well-Rounded Whitaker A Success In And Out Of Pool

by Ryan Reiswig

To be great at a sport you have to love it, and you have to love practicing it. After all, practice makes perfect, right?

For Washington State senior swimmer Talor Whitaker, she loved the sport from the early age of seven, nearly driving her mother crazy. Instead of the classic line, 'Are we there yet?', Whitaker had another question she always berated her mother with.

"I remember my mom telling me over and over again that I always wanted to go back to practice or every single day constantly asking her 'When is practice, when do we get to go?'," remembers Whitaker. "If I wasn't good, I sure liked it. It seemed to turn out pretty well for me."

It's turned out well for not only herself, but the whole WSU women's swim team as she leads them into the Pac-10 Championships.

The regular season ended with a bang on senior day at Gibb Pool on WSU's Pullman, Wash., campus. Whitaker, with the help of two of her senior teammates (Jennifer Dean and Rugile Mileisyte) and sophomore Evelina Bieleckaite, broke the Gibb Pool record by over a second in the 200 freestyle relay. On top of her success in the relay event, Whitaker was also victorious in her two individual contests, leading all swimmers at the meet with 18 points.

Whitaker traveled a long distance to make WSU her college home. A native of Chesterton, Ind., she probably wouldn't be swimming for the Cougars if it weren't for her coach, Erica Quam, who is very familiar with the Midwest.

"It (Washington State) wasn't necessarily on my radar in the beginning, but I knew I didn't want to stay in-state," says Whitaker. "Coach Quam went to Indiana University and she had a tie back to the Midwest. I think that's where I sort of got put in the bunch where she found me."

No stranger to recruiting, Quam knew how to conquer Whitaker's potential long distance roadblock.

"Distance can be a big factor that narrows things down," says Quam. "It's either a plane ride or long car ride so we just try to bring that point up. If you're traveling, you're traveling."

During the recruiting process Whitaker saw a quality in Quam she didn't see in the other coaches recruiting her, something that sealed the deal to her in regards to her college future.

"She wants you to excel in her program and she's got the perfect program to do that, but she's also concerned with and always willing to make sure that you're developing as a person outside the pool," says Whitaker of her coach. "That was kind of the icing on the cake, cherry on top."

Quam was most likely a happy camper when Whitaker gave her word WSU was her college choice and more than likely even happier about her choice today. Along with all her success in the pool, Whitaker is very active outside of it.

"She's been one of our team captains this year and she was one of our co-captains her sophomore year," says Quam. "She's been on the student-athlete advisory committee here at Washington State ever since her freshman year. She's been very active and involved in every aspect of swimming and athletics here at WSU."

A lot of Whitaker's success stems from her parents who both swam collegiately and have helped prepare her for her college experience.

"They're just the two best supporters that I could ever have," says Whitaker, a two-time Pac-10 All-Academic second team selection. "I have three younger brothers that also swim but my parents were so supportive and encouraging. They went through the same thing; they swam all the way through the college level as well, so they gave me wonderful advice, a lot of insight."

One of her three brothers, Kyle, swims for the University of Michigan. Growing up, Talor and Kyle battled often against each other in the pool. This competition helped the two of them because while Talor is older than Kyle, she was faster than him for awhile but once Kyle started to grow, he started becoming faster than Talor. Ultimately, this sibling rivalry could be what catapulted them to the top of their sport.

"It was interesting because that little transition period between (Kyle) being slower and then him being faster was really fun," says Whitaker. "It was frustrating at times because he'd start getting awards and all these different accolades for his success, then it got a little tougher for me as I got into the older age groups when girls start getting faster."

Competition may have gotten tougher for Whitaker as she's gotten older but she hasn't had much issue adjusting to it. Recently she came very close to the Olympic Trial cut in the 100 meter butterfly. This has made her ponder what she wants to pursue once her senior year is over.

"Right now my goals are a little mixed," says Whitaker, a communications major. "I think I'd be an excellent contribution to the work force and one of my goals would be to get a job and get myself started on my own. I'm also thinking maybe if I find a meet, get my Olympic trial cut, maybe in the near future I'll be training for the Olympic Trials."

Regardless of what Whitaker's future may be, judging from her past, we haven't heard the last from her.

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