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Strachan has a stinging butterfly.

Byline: Jay Gearan

GARDNER - Six days a week, often in rigorous double-session workouts, Taylor Strachan practices her swimming strokes.

"My only day off is Thursday," said the Gardner High sophomore, who won the state championship in the 100-yard butterfly last season.

Only Thursdays? Not even on her sweet 16th birthday last month?

"It wasn't on a Thursday," Strachan said. "I had my usual practice - about 9,000 yards."

Then it was out of the Greenwood Pool and back to her Rutland home with her family and a couple of friends for birthday cake and gifts. Swimming, of course, always comes first.

Strachan is another in a long line of richly talented and deeply dedicated Gardner High swimmers stretching back to 1994 when the Wildcats won their first of 15 straight state titles. Off the gold medal podium for only one year, Gardner captured its 16th championship last season with Strachan making a big freshman splash.

Gardner coach Don Lemieux wasn't surprised.

"Taylor is a gamer," Lemieux said. "Never misses a practice year-round. And when it really counts, when she's under pressure, she comes through."

Like at the Division 1 state meet at Harvard University last winter,

when she sped to first in the fast lane, winning the 100 butterfly in 57.43 seconds. She also earned high school All-America honors.

Strachan began swimming at age 9, joining Lemieux's Greenwood team and catching his attention right away.

"Originally, I liked backstroke but then came the butterfly," she said.

Lemieux said the butterfly is perhaps the most difficult swimming stroke, and Strachan welcomed the challenge.

"It takes a lot of upper-body and middle-core strength," said the 5-foot-7 Strachan. "The first part is all underwater for 15 yards, and then you have to come up and pull your arms up and out of the water."

Asked what butterfly swimmer she admired the most, Strachan smiled and said, "Michael Phelps is a pretty good butterflyer."

Strachan also will be called on by Lemieux to swim the 200 individual medley, plus the 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays.

Strachan adds dry-land training to her busy schedule, including running and weightlifting three times a week after her many laps in the pool.

"I can bench 115 pounds, but only for about six reps," she said, adding that during her hectic weekdays, she tries to finish her homework after practice and is usually close to sleeping by 8 p.m.

Although only a sophomore, Strachan has set some short-term and long-term goals. "I would love to win states all four years of high school, and then go to a Division 1 college," she said. "And, if possible, I would love to make the Olympic Trials someday."

Strachan loves the feeling of finishing a race, touching the wall, and looking up for her time. "It's an awesome feeling knowing you won," she said.

Strachan is ready to jump from the starting blocks as the Wildcats opened their season yesterday against Shrewsbury High.

"I feel like I'm getting in the zone," she said during a rare break from her 9,000 practice yards one afternoon last week. "I'm ready to race."

ART: PHOTOS

CUTLINE: (1) Taylor Strachan of Rutland is another in a long line of richly talented and deeply dedicated Gardner High swimmers stretching back to 1994 when the Wildcats won their first of 15 straight state titles. (2) Gardner High sophomore Taylor Strachan of Rutland swims the breaststroke during practice last week.

PHOTOG: T&G Staff Photos/STEVE LANAVA
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 14, 2010
Words:582
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