Jael Collins was destined to swim for Brainerd Warriors coach Dan Anderson.
Her father, Cahill, and Anderson swam together from sixth grade through high school at Alexandria. While a high school student, Anderson worked for a cleaning service that Jael's grandfather's operated.
About six years ago, when the Collins family moved to Brainerd, Cahill called Anderson to inform him of the relocation.
"I hadn't talked to Cahill for about 10 years," Anderson said. "He called me one day to say he was moving to town. I was thrilled.
Jael Collins profile
Sport -- Swimming and diving
Events -- 100-yard backstroke, 50 free, medley, 200 and 400 free relays
Year -- Senior
Age -- 17
Height -- 5-foot-8
Grade-point average -- 3.87
Memorable sports achievement -- Winning the 50-yard freestyle with a career-best time against Alexandria
School activities -- French Club
Favorite subject -- Mathematics
Favorite food -- Macaroni and cheese
Hobbies -- Reading, playing soccer, drawing
Future plans -- Attend college, hopefully swim, study architecture or actuary science
Athlete she admires -- Her father, Cahill
Parents -- Cahill and Michele Collins
HEAD:WARRIOR ATHLETE OF THE WEEK Now she likes swimming
"Actually, Jael started swimming when she was young but she hated it. Of course, I was trying to get her out for the junior high team but as a sixth-grader she didn't go out for swimming. I thought, 'Well, I guess we lost that one.' But she went out as a seventh-grader and things started to click for her. She started enjoying it and having success. She swam all last winter on the YMCA team. It became a passion for her."
Collins has taken her passion to another level. Last week against Alexandria, she swam the backstroke on the first-place 200-yard medley relay team. She also won the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke.
"Jael is already at a level in swimming where it's very difficult to get a lifetime best until you've gone through a whole season of training," Anderson said. "For her to get a lifetime best (in the 50 free) in the second meet is incredible."
Her 50 free time was a career-best 26.17 seconds.
"One of the girls got disqualified next to me," Collins said. "I was afraid I would not be motivated enough to go faster. (Teammate) Katie Diiro was right there, so I was trying to race with her. When I looked at my time, I was kind of amazed."
The 50 free is one of the Warriors' most competitive events. They return state meet competitors Cori Severson and Diiro.
"It's healthy competition with each other," Collins said. "We're all good friends, but we're also looking to beat each other sometimes."
Collins ripped off a time of 1:08.44 to win the 100 backstroke.
"It was not my best time," she said, "but it was a good time for the beginning of the year."
Anderson said Collins has been a pleasure to coach for four seasons.
"She is really a first-rate individual," he said. "She's a good student, an excellent citizen. She's the nicest girl you ever want to meet.
"Sometimes she gets lost in the shuffle. We have so many talented swimmers and she's one of them. She doesn't get a lot of ink. If you go back a couple years she would probably have been one of our stars. We wouldn't be where we are without her."
Other notable efforts by Warriors:
Krista Rauen, swimming, won two events and was a member of two first-place relays against Alexandria.
Justin Grunewald, cross country, won the boys' race at the Bemidji Invitational.
Megan Steiger and Megan Whalen, girls' tennis, were runners-up in No. 1 doubles at the Camp Lake Hubert Invitational.
(Athlete of the week is honored by the Brainerd Sports Boosters Club.)
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.