Jefferson’s Amber Cratsenberg aims to kick off prep career with a state title | Swimming

When she’s in the pool it’s easy to see why Thomas Jefferson freshman Amber Cratsenberg is one of the best swimmers in the state.

When she’s in the pool it’s easy to see why Thomas Jefferson freshman Amber Cratsenberg is one of the best swimmers in the state.

In the water she’s a combination of grace and power, technique and speed. Out of the pool it’s even more evident why at just 14 years old, Cratsenberg is swimming in four events – the 50- and 100-yard freestyle races as well as the 200 IM and the 200 free relays – at the Washington State 4A swim and dive championships Friday and today.

Jefferson coach Wendy Neely calls Cratsenberg, who stands at 5-feet 9-inches, with broad shoulders and a chiseled swimmer’s physique, “a freshman in an adult, experienced swimmer’s body.”

Since she was 6 years old, Cratsenberg has been swimming competitively.

“I started at Marine Hills,” she said. “That’s my neighborhood; we have a little pool there.”

By the time she was 8, it became apparent that she was a natural.

“I started setting records,” she said. “I’m really competitive. And I like to swim fast.”

Cratsenberg currently owns the fastest 50 free time in the Pacific Northwest for a 10-and-under swimmer with a 26:53. She’s also owns the 50 free record for swimmers aged 11 to 12 (24.34) and swam a 53.29 100 free as a 12-year-old, also a Pacific Northwest record.

Although genetics obviously plays a role in her success, she also puts in old-fashioned hard work.

Since joining the Valley Aquatics Swim Team (VAST) a few years ago, Cratsenberg has spent much of her time at the pool.

During the high school season, she practices for the Raiders for a couple hours before jumping right back into the pool to practice for VAST, sometimes logging as many as five hours a day in the water.

“When I’m not swimming, I’m usually home resting because I’m so tired,” she said. “Or doing homework during the school year.”

In her first year as a prep swimmer, Cratsenberg didn’t take long to post a state qualifying time.

“I qualified at my first meet of the year,” she said.

And although she’s no stranger to the pool, Cratsenberg said she has had to make some adjustments at the high school level.

“I was nervous, that’s for sure,” she said. “I knew it was going to be more fun than the club meets that I go to, because it’s with all the girls, and it’s high school. I just try to have fun.”

According to Neely, the adjustment has gone well.

“She’s kind of reserved but a fun, supportive person,” Neely said. “She has a lot of experience in the swimming world, but is still just a freshman. So she’s just starting to get a grasp on how the high school system works and how it flows.”

Cratsenberg hopes to get started on one of her personal goals for her high school career – winning the 4A 50 free title all four years of her prep career.

And with a personal-best time of 24.12, Cratsenberg has a good chance to do it. Last year, the winning 50 free time in the 4A competition was 24.20.

“I want to try and get a low 23,” she said. “That would be amazing. I’d have to cut off a lot, but I think I can do it.”

Cratsenberg will have the added advantage of swimming in her home pool at the state meet, the King County Aquatic Center where both Jefferson and VAST swim and train.

“It’s a big advantage,” Cratsenberg said. “I know just walking in here is really intimidating for many girls, because it’s so big. But I’m really honored to swim here. It’s one of the best pools in the entire nation. It’s amazing here.”

ALSO: Jefferson will also compete in the 200 IM and 200 free relays, featuring Cratsenberg, Savannah Coe, Janis Huynh and Bailey Warrior. Coe also qualified in the 100 breaststroke. … Other local swimmers and divers competing in the 4A meet are: Auburn’s Trisha Averill, 200 IM and 100 breaststroke and defending state 3A diving champion Shawna Jordan of Auburn.