Kankakee Valley’s Madison Babicka couldn't be kept away from the pool for very long.
The senior is determined to qualify for the state meet in the 50-yard freestyle at the Crown Point Sectional next month.
“I have the state cut in my head. I’m always seeing it -- 24.30,” said Babicka, who’s swam varsity all four years for K.V.
Not even a heart ailment last year has deterred Babicka from having a standout senior season in her quest to make it to Indianapolis.
“Out of the four years she’s never missed a practice, always wanting more,” K.V. coach Kevin Stephens said. “She’s one of those girls who just wants to better herself every day.”
This past March, Babicka was diagnosed with SVT (supraventricular tachycardia). It’s a condition where the heart’s electrical system doesn’t work right, causing the heart to beat too fast, according to WebMd.
Babicka underwent a catheter ablation to correct the heart’s rhythm. The procedure entailed taking the catheter through her thigh and up to the heart to destroy, or ablate, the tiny tissues that were causing the problem.
“I had to stay in the hospital overnight and couldn’t swim for a couple weeks,” Babicka said. “It wasn’t anything too invasive, but about a week and a half to two weeks recovery, so that was rough for me to be out of the pool.”
With a clean bill of health, Babicka also played tennis for the Kougars in the spring, taking a short break from swimming.
She then dove back into her swim workouts in the summer, often making a 45-minute drive to the YMCA in Valparaiso, training on her own.
“I also did some cross training,” Babicka said. “I’ve been doing all that I can, working hard in practice, outside practice (and) getting exercise.”
She also worked as a lifeguard at the Spencer Park Pool in DeMotte, where she was also able to do lap swims to save a few trips to Valpo.
Now, Babicka remains focused on 24.30. She just missed the cut last year in the sectional, finishing sixth in 24.97.
“She hasn’t quite had her PR yet this year in the 50 free, so she’s kind of getting anxious a little bit,” Stephens said. “I’m feeling like the stage will be set for the sectionals, and I think she’ll shine there.”
At last Saturday’s Northwest Crossroads Conference meet, Babicka finished second to Munster’s Mary Beth Blocher in the 50 free with a time of 25.09. Her personal best this season is 24.8 after turning in a 24.75 last year.
“I’ve been working real hard, keeping that time in my head,” said Babicka, readying for the sectional. “That’s when I’ve got to do it.”
Babicka is also happy to able to swim with her best friends Abbey Sittema, Jordan Rhoades and Audrey Lewis.
“All my teammates, they motivate me, too,” she said. “They really want to see me go. I’m happy that we’re in it together. We’re like a family. We’re really close.”