SCHERERVILLE | Michaela Spears' favorite swim stroke is the butterfly.
Not because it's the easiest or the one she does the best. Rather, it's because it's not on either front.
"It's a challenge," said the Schererville 10-year-old. "It takes a lot of strength and endurance, and because it's so hard makes me want to improve at it even more."
At the Mid-States Swim Championships held Jan. 4 at the IUPUI Natatorium in Indianapolis, Spears led Team Indiana to a convincing victory over Team Kentucky, Team Ohio and Team Michigan with five individual wins in the 10-and-under girls division.
The wins — the most of any Mid-States competitor — were in the 200 yard individual medley (2 minutes, 23.93 seconds), 50 breaststroke (35.43), 100 breaststroke (1:17.57), 200 freestyle (2:08.85) and 100 backstroke (1:08.94).
Michaela was also part of the winning 200 medley relay team (2:06.64) with Rachel Stange, Madelyn Christman and Adisyn Sawaska.
Aside from the 50-yard leg in 200 IM, about the only stroke Michaela didn't win at Mid-States was the butterfly. But the year before at Mid-States while competing as a 9-year-old, Michaela earned perhaps her most coveted prize in the 50 butterfly.
"I made a deal with her ... if she could get on the podium (top eight) for four events, she could get a dog," Michaela's father, Michael Spears said. "She originally wanted a cell phone, but I thought she was still too young for that, so I figure if I offered her a dog, she would go for that instead."
Early on, Michaela made the top eight in three events, but it looked doubtful she would get her fourth.
"She was ranked 23rd in preliminary times going in the finals of her final event," Michael Spears said, "so I didn't think she had much of a chance."
But Michaela was not to be denied as she finished seventh. Prince, her black-and-white Pomeranian, is the result of her against-the-odds achievement.
Though the Spears family moved to Schererville five years ago, Michaela and her 13-year-old sister Savanna still swim for the Lansing Swim Organization.
"We like the coach," Michaela said of LSO's Art Czarobski, who also helped train Michaela's oldest sister, Holly, a senior at Lake Central.
Like sisters who transfer hand-me-down clothes to their younger siblings, the Spears sisters do that with LSO team records. Savanna had usurped many of Holly's former records, and Michaela has bested most of Savanna's 9-10 age-group marks.
"I doesn't bother me," Savanna said. "I know I helped push her to break those records, and they still stay in the family."
The LSO participates in the Indiana Age Group Championships. At the most recent long-course summer championships, Michaela won golds in the 100 backstroke and 100 breaststroke.
Curiously, Michaela takes greater pride in her state championships than she does from her Mid-States titles, though the latter came against topnotch stringent-qualifying swimmers from four states.
"I like swimming at state more because I swim against people I know," Michaela said. "Going against rivals motivates me."