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The City Journals

West Valley swimmer sets state records as an 11 year old

Nov 27, 2019 12:59PM ● By Greg James

Shayla Zulcic from West Valley City set a club record at the state long course championships. Her time of 2:29.62 in the 200 m free was good enough for first place in the event. (Photo courtesy Edin Zulcic)

By Greg James | [email protected] 

A young phenom is swimming in the pools at the West Valley City Family Fitness Center. Shayla Zulcic, an 11 year old, is making a name for herself by setting two state records and pushing herself to always get better.

“When I swim I do what I do and I am proud of what I do,” Shayla said. “My brother went to state and that made me want to swim. I saw how happy he was. There was a lot of excitement.”

Shayla began swimming just over two years ago. Her brother, Benjamin Zulcic, was then a senior at Granger High School. He finished 22nd overall at the state high school swim meet in the 50 free (2017).  Shayla is on track to eclipse her brother’s success.

“I was happy, all of the morning practices and work I have done has paid off,” Shayla said. “I like the backstroke the best. I am getting better at fly and breaststroke. It is more techniques in those strokes.”

She took this season’s long course state championship for the 400 free. Her time was only one second slower than the state record and she established a new West Valley Aquatics record originally set by Claire Jackson in 2010. 

Shayla took second in the 100 back and a second state championship in the 200 free. Her success has affected her family.

“I cry sometimes, to tell the truth,” Shayla’s father Edin Zulcic said. “I still get nervous every time she races. It has taken a lot of time for me and her mother, but we think it is a fun sport. It is certainly healthy and she has made friends from her team and other clubs.”

Shayla is a fifth-grader at Monroe Elementary in West Valley. She has played soccer, but finds the time demands on swimming to be more fulfilling.

“She has gone by a saying about practice: ‘Practice doesn’t make you perfect, perfect practice makes you perfect.’ Every day she comes in, she practices almost nine times a week and every day she is trying to drop her time. That has been what is important to her. I built her a shelf for all of her medals and we just built her another one because she just moved up in age group,” Edin said.

She started swimming on the West Valley Sea Wolves Aquatic pre-competition team. Her times improved and she was persuaded to join the competition team. There she received more specific coaching to help her get better.

“My coaches teach me techniques and how to make my time better,” Shayla said. “Swimming is very fun and it can be hard. You can learn a lot from it. The first place I felt like I was fast was when I was in Montana. I got some medals, now I have 50 to 60 medals on my shelf.”

The Sea Wolves have 57 swimmers on the competition team, slightly down from years past. Most swimmers come from the West Valley City area.

“Our team is not that big, but it makes me proud that I can be the fastest even though I am not on those big clubs,” Shayla said. “I visualize the race and focus on the water as I approach each race. It calms me down and gets me ready to go.”

Representing a team and swimming as individuals is something her coaches have worked with her on. The Sea Wolves coaches help set goals so the athletes know what they need to do to advance.

“I share the things she does every day to my coworkers,” Sea Wolves head coach Mike Hillman said. “She gets up every morning at four to come to practice. I have older kids that always make excuses. She is the built-in example of what a great swimmer is. It makes it easier for me as a coach when her family supports her. I tell people that I think I have an Olympian on my team.”

Several swimmers on the Sea Wolves team have opportunities to compete after high school. Many girls have the opportunity to earn scholarships from their swimming achievements. 

“Every one of our swimmers have improved. I love that we have this facility that we have to practice and train in. It is so incredible to have the support of the city staff,” Hillman said.

The Sea Wolves train and compete at the West Valley City Family Fitness Center. They offer competitive as well as recreational swim teams.