Meet Alex Wickens: swimmer extraordinaire

By: 
Doreen Heintz
Sports Editor

Alex Wickens competes in the 100-yard freestyle at the State Federation Meet in Hamilton last weekend. Wickens set a new state record in the event.                              Photo courtesy of Cheryl Wickens

By DOREEN HEINTZ
Sports Editor

Alex Wickens is a quiet, modest, unassuming young man who quickly gives credit for his incredible swimming prowess to his family, friends and coach, but after the state swim meet last weekend, he also owns 12 individual state federation records. 
“During my 11 years of swimming I have had great support from my family and especially my coach,” said Wickens. “I really need to give my coach (Ken Roberts) a special thanks because I could not do it without him. He makes sure everything is perfected when preparing us for a race. Coach swam throughout high school and college and likes the distance races. He really encourages us to compete in the distance races such as the 400 freestyle.”
But inside Wickens burns an intense drive to be the best. Wickens admits he likes to win, and he has certainly lived up to his high standards. During this summer season for the Sea Lions, Wickens went undefeated in every individual event he competed in at each and every meet. He also won a high-point trophy for his age group at every meet he competed in.
“I have a shelf in my room that is getting pretty crowded,” he said, when asked what he does with all of those trophies.
As far as family, Wickens recognizes his sister who graduated in 2015 and also swam for the Sea Lions as one of his biggest supporters.
“She really encouraged me, especially when I was younger,” he said.
He also credits his mom and dad for his success.
“They have driven me to all my meets over the years,” he said. “They are always there cheering for me. They have given up almost every weekend during the summer so I can compete. I think our family vacations are going to swim meets throughout Montana.”
Swimming is not Wickens’ only sport. In the fall, he plays football for the Golden Eagles. He is a tough wrestler on the FHS team, and also competes for the track team in the spring.
“Swimming really gets me in shape for football,” Wickens said. “Also the mental toughness I get from competing in swimming carries over to the mats in wrestling. Both sports kind of go hand-in-hand.”
Wickens does admit swimming is his favorite sport to compete in.
It is still hard to comprehend this junior-to-be owns 12 Montana Federation state records. Just this year for example, Wickens broke his own state federation record in both the 400 freestyle and the 50 freestyle at the Glendive Invitational. At the Eastern A Divisional meet in Malta, Wickens set two new federation records, and then at the state meet in Hamilton this past weekend, he set three state federation records in all three of his state events.
Because pools differ in whether they are 25 yards or 25 meters in length, a person can hold, for example, a state record in both the 100-yard freestyle and the 100-meter freestyle races. At the divisional meet, the races were in meters, while at state the competitors raced in yards. Next year in the new city pool in Lewistown, a bevy of pool records will be recorded. In the old pool, competition was in yards, but in the new pool competitors will be swimming in meters.
 With one meter being 39.37 inches in length, a 25-meter pool becomes 27.34 yards in length or about 2.34 additional yards for each length of the pool.
Wickens admits another driving force for his swimming competition is wanting to beat some of the state records currently being held by past Sea Lions swimmers.
“Brad Fjeldeim from Lewistown has a number of state records, and I have been chasing his records for the past two years,” he said.
Wickens also enjoys competing in the different stroke events. At the state meet, Wickens set a new state record in the 200-yard individual medley. In this event, he had to swim 50 yards using all four of the basic strokes – freestyle, butterfly, breaststroke and backstroke. During the season, he competes in different distances and strokes at different meets. He did have to compete in the same stroke and distance at the divisional meet and then at state.
“I don’t really have a favorite stroke,” he added. “They are all fairly equal for me.
Although Wickens has two more years competing for the Sea Lions, he is also looking forward to competing after graduating from high school.
“I am looking to swim in college,” said Wickens. “I know I will have to go out of state to compete, and I am at a disadvantage against swimmers who are able to compete year round, but I still want to give it a try.”
Wickens is already anticipating next summer. One of the best things about the summer of 2017 is that Lewistown will be hosting the state swim meet at the new Aquatics Park.
“I will be able to sleep in my own bed for state,” he said. “Of course, I want to continue setting new state records.”

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