Feb 28, 2012 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff WriterShe's not quite ready to give up her basketball for a swimsuit.
But that day is coming for Shoshoni High School senior Hailey Pince who has committed to attend the University of Wyoming and become a Cowgirl swimmer.
Pince, along with her Shoshoni Lady Blue basketball teammates, will play in the state basketball tournament beginning Thursday. Then, after maybe a one-day holiday from training, Pince will be back in the pool as she sets her sights on swimming at Corbett Pool for the University of Wyoming in Laramie.
The reigning Class 4-A 100-yard breaststroke champion, Pince swam four years for Riverton High School as a Lady Wolverine, driving nearly 100 miles each day to make early morning practices in Riverton, school in Shoshoni, and ending the day back in the pool at the Riverton Aquatic Center before heading home. Her home school, Shoshoni, does not have a pool or a swim team.
The dedication will pay off for Pince when she signs a national letter of intent to swim for Wyoming after April 11, which is when the signing period begins for NCAA-bound swimmers.
She made the choice to attend Wyoming after visiting the campus this winter during a recruiting visit with her dad, Dennis Pince.
It was the 1:07 breaststroke swim at the Class 4-A state meet in Gillette that opened Division I doors for Pince, who initially was rejected when she started applying to schools last fall.
"I started with Mesa (Colorado), and I got my rejection letter from Mesa. That kind of fueled it. I always wanted to swim in college, and it was something that hurt. I wanted to do well after that," Pince said.
Pince began collaborating with Riverton High School coach Chad Fallin and also found a surprising ally in Cheyenne East head swim coach Jamie Winkler.
"They collaborated on what I needed to do. It was kind of incredible that he (Winkler) helped me so much because Jonna Brown was his girl who should have won state. But I beat her. The 1:07 was relatively close to all-American time, and I got a lot more options after that," Pince said.
Besides resuming her rigorous swimming training schedule after basketball, Pince will also run track for the Lady Blue this spring. It's the first year Pince has gone out for high school track.
"I need to get stronger and faster and perfect my technique. You can always get faster and be better. They suggested I do track here and swim. I've never run track before," Pince said.
After her graduation in late May -- Pince is ranked third academically in her class -- she will head straight to Laramie with 30 college credits already in hand. She plans to major in chemistry as a precursor for her hopes of making it to medical school. She'll also use the summer to start training with the Cowgirl swim team.
"The Rochelle Center is amazing. I want to get down there and get to work. They said they would make me fast," Pince joked.
Pince will likely swim the 100-yard and 200-yard breaststroke in college.
She also considered opportunities from Colorado State, the University of Northern Colorado and St. Bonaventure University in New York before choosing Wyoming.
"During the summer, I went to a camp in Florida and I met a Wyoming coach (Manny Noguchi) there. He was incredible and really helped me. He was personal, and that is when I knew I wanted a personal, family-like program. I called Manny after my 1:07 and he said he could really help me. He said he would love to have me swim at Wyoming. The Laramie coach, Tom Hudson, told Tom Johnson (Wyoming's head swim coach) that he needed to recruit me. That meant a lot," Pince said.
Neither Wyoming head coach Johnson or Noguchi could formally comment about recruiting Pince because of NCAA rules that prevent coaches from talking about recruits until after the national signing day in April.
But first things first. The college swim career will need to wait a few more days. Pince was on the basketball practice court working hard with her teammates Monday night.
"Obviously we made it to state for a reason. If we get our stuff together and don't make the same mistakes that we made at regionals, we should do pretty well," Pince said.
Hailey's mother is Lyn Pince. The family lives in rural Riverton.
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