Senior Jessie Hammes swims every day before and after school, is going to Stanford on a swimming scholarship, and even went to the Olympic trials

By Cassie Dugan
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How long have you been swimming?
I’ve been doing neighborhood (swimming) since I was 4 years old. I started year-round (swimming) when I was  8.

What got you interested in swimming?
That’s hard. I joined the neighborhood league just because I was little, and I liked the water. Then parents who had kids that swam year-round said, “Hey you might want to look at year-round swimming. You’re a good swimmer; you have a lot of talent so you might want to do something with it.” So, I decided to join the year-round team and it’s just kind of gone from there. I’ve been swimming year-round since I was 8, so that’s 10 years now.

Do you have a favorite or specialty event that you participate in?
In high school I swim the 100-back, 100-fly and 50-back on the medley relay. My favorite event is probably the 100-back.

Walk me through an average weekday’s schedule including swimming, homework and anything else.
I get up at 4:40 a.m. Practice starts at 5:15 and lasts until 7:05 a.m. Then there is school all day. Practice starts at 3:20, and we get out at 6 p.m. I get home around 6:30 p.m., have dinner and then do homework while trying to get to bed as early as I can. I probably go to bed between 10 and 11 p.m. Sometimes it’s earlier and then sometimes it’s 11:30 p.m., and I’m still awake. I just try to get to bed as soon as I can. I try to get ahead as much as I can on the weekends so I don’t have as much to do during the week.

Congratulations on being accepted into Stanford. Are you going for swimming?
Yes, I’m going for swimming. I had to apply as a regular student. I’ve wanted to go to Stanford since I was 7 years old; it’s been my life goal forever to swim for them. I got recruited by them so I’m going to be a part of that team next year.

Into which other colleges were you accepted?
Well, the way swimming works is you don’t really apply. You get recruited by the coaches and then you apply. Stanford was special because I wasn’t allowed to be recruited until I was accepted. So technically, I didn’t apply anywhere else. I went on four recruiting trips though. I went to Southern Methodist University, UCLA, Rutgers and Stanford. I looked at Notre Dame, but I didn’t end up going on a trip there.

Do you plan on swimming after graduating college?
That’s kind of up to how I do. With med school I don’t think I could juggle swimming-I’ll probably just do it to stay in shape. But if something amazing happens and I end up being really good, I might swim for a couple of years. But I don’t necessarily see that in the future.

With your intense swimming schedule how are you able to maintain a high enough GPA?
It’s a lot of work. I just have to set aside time for studying. I get home around 6:30 at night, have dinner and then it’s kind of straight to the books. I make good use of my SRTs and my weekends. Weekends are really big for me; I try to catch up as much as I can then.

What is your GPA right now?
My report card had it at 4.15, I think.

Are you enrolled in a lot of AP courses then?
I’m only in two this year. I’ve taken more but I decided to kind of cut back my senior year. I’m in AP Biology and AP Statistics this year.

Aside from your swimming talent, what factors do you think got you into Stanford?
I’ve tried to stay really well-rounded. I’ve done community service work, and that wasn’t even necessarily to get into Stanford; I did want to get involved. I organized the first and second annual food drive for my swim club. I kind of put that together, and we did a canned food drive. I contacted all the food banks around Hamilton County. Also, I’m involved in student government, the athletic board and National Honor Society. I’ve just tried to hit all my bases. I don’t have any performing arts or anything, but other than that I tried to cover everything.

As far as your attendance at Olympic Trials, how does that all work?
Well, there is a time that you have to achieve in whatever event you want to qualify for. You have right after the Olympics of 2004 right up to that date (when the trials are conducted) to swim the time that you need to swim. Then if you qualify then you get to go to the meet. They pick the Olympic team from the top two.

Against how many other qualifiers were you competing?
There were about 130 (qualifiers) in my event. I swam the 100-meter backstroke. Total, I want to say about 800 people where there.

And you’ve met Michael Phelps?
Well, kind of. I was actually in a hot tub with him. I didn’t really talk to him. It was at a meet, and swimmers just kind of get in the hot tub.  So I was in a close vicinity. Before he was really good I got his autograph, talked to him a little bit and got his picture and stuff, but I don’t know him on a personal level.

How did that turn out for you?
I didn’t swim as well as I would have liked to. It was my goal for three years, but I really focused the last year to get to trials, and after I got there I didn’t really know what to do with it. I didn’t swim as well as I’d hoped, but it was an amazing experience just to be on a stage with people like that. It was just incredible to be around all that and see all these world records.

When and where were the Olympic Trials held that you attended?
It was in Omaha, Nebraska. It was June 30 to July 7 of 2008.

Do you have a favorite professional swimmer?
This is really hard. I love Michael Phelps. I think he is really adorable, but that is such a cliché answer. I think probably Natalie Coughlin because she is a back-stroker. Well, she can do anything, but she’s the closest thing to a female Michael Phelps that we have. I really admire both of their work ethics. I’ve seen them train and the working out they do. Just to have that kind of dedication and to sacrifice so much to be able to get that good is something that I really look up to.