At 12 years old, Kristen VanSaun possesses a rare combination of ability, desire and work ethic.
"This kid has kind of grasped the swimming thing," Lawrence High and Aquahawks coach Pat Grzenda said. "As a novice she showed ability. She's worked really hard and has started to reap some of the benefits."
VanSaun, daughter of former Kansas defensive tackle Paul VanSaun, won her age group's 200 free, 100 back and 50 free Saturday at the Roger Hill Invitational swimming meet at the municipal pool.
This week she will accompany several of the Aquahawks' older girls to the Region Eight meet in Oklahoma City.
Nervous? Not her.
"No, I'm just excited, really," VanSaun said.
SHE'LL SWIM legs on the 800 and 400 freestyle relay teams and also compete in her specialty, the 100 backstroke, at the regional.
"That'll help, because I'm usually pretty fast at most meets in the backstroke," she said. "I think it'll help to have a lot of competition."
VanSaun joined the Aquahawks two years ago and quickly began to qualify for Div. I and II meets in her age group.
"My mom said I always liked the water," she said. "We got a flier at school (about the club). I asked my mom if I could go to the clinic and see if I liked it. I'm one of the oldest people in my age group. I think it really helped to have success early."
She continues to succeed, as her performance at the Hill Invitational shows.
"This is a fun meet, because there's not really a lot of stiff competition," she said.
THAT WON'T be the case at the United States Swimming zone meet the second weekend in August in Fayetteville, Ark. The Region Eight meet is big, but for VanSaun, the zone meet is bigger.
"That's my main championship meet this summer," she said. "(Grzenda) is using that to start my taper. Some girls who have Region Eight as their championship meet are tapering already."
VanSaun will be an eighth grader at Central Junior High this fall, which means she's one year away from competing for Grzenda at Lawrence High.
"At our school there are, I think, three swimmers," Van Saun said. "I think it'll be a lot more fun at school to have people who know what you're talking about."
Grzenda will be happy to have VanSaun, too.
"We knew there was some ability there for her to gain that level the first summer," the coach said. "Since then, she's moved up through the ranks and is very unaffected by it all."