Fresh perspective paves way for Wicks to break school record

December 14, 2015

Sam Wicks swimming

Sam Wicks

Sam Wicks of Anchorage didn’t come to Boise State University to swim the 200-yard backstroke, yet she will leave as the school’s greatest in the event.

She was recruited as a sprinter but is now one of the most versatile swimmers in the Mountain West Conference.

Last year she earned all-conference honors in seven events – 100 back, 100 free, 200 IM, 200 and 400 free relays, and 200 and 400 medley relays. The year before it was six.

This year the senior star has recorded four NCAA B cuts and set a school record in the 200 back with a time of 1:54.24, surpassing the old mark by 1.96 seconds. Her time was also the second-fastest in Mountain West Conference history, just 0.1 of a second behind the record.

“I was never really a 200 swimmer, but as the years have gone on I’ve started swimming in the 200 IM and this year they stuck me in the 200 backstroke,” she told me.

“I had never been under two minutes [in the 200 back] and went 1:54. I was pleased with it.”

Wicks, of East High fame, credited her vast improvement to new Boise State head coach Jeremy Kipp, who previously worked at Southern Cal.

“There have been a lot of Olympians that have gone through that USC program,” Wicks said. “He has an idea of what should be done in order to make a program really good.”

Kipp’s new perspective has invigorated Wicks and other upperclassmen.

“It’s not the same old that I’ve been going through the last three years,” she said. “We do a lot of stuff with power that’s been really helpful; even the distance girls are doing things they’ve never done before. They aren’t just swimming back and forth trying to gain yardage. There is a purpose what’s behind what we are doing and I think that’s really helped.”

Wicks is also a star out of the pool, volunteering at her church’s nursery and earning a Mountain West Scholar-Athlete Award.

“College swimming is rough. It’s hard mentally because you’re balancing all of the training and classes,” she said. “It’s not true for every school, sadly, but here we take a lot of pride in the academic side of student-athlete.”

The health science major owns a 3.9 cumulative GPA.

“When I’m in the pool, I’m in the pool doing what I’m doing. And then when I’m out of the pool I don’t think about swimming,” she said. “I try to make that a priority so I’m not thinking about swimming all the time because that will kill you.”