Glasgow? Then Rio?

FOR former Kerang-turned-Geelong swimmer Kahlia Marsh, the sky seems to be the limit after she has officially out-grown the national schools state swimming titles this year.

Marsh turned 18 in May and made her final appearance for Victoria in the School Sport Australia Swimming Championship in Sydney earlier this month.

She has managed no less than nine years’ worth of appearances for the state side over her school life – an incredible achievement capped off with the mantle of team captain.

However, Marsh said on Sunday that she doesn’t find all of the victories and acclaim get too dull.

And there’s still a different way to approach and prepare for such meets, even after starting them way back in her primary school days.

“It’s always just my big event over winter,” she added.”And the first one to start the season off. I just try my best and see what I can do. It’s really just a hit-off.”

Some hit-off then – as Marsh swam in more than 20 separate events, including heats, finals and relays in Sydney.

Her highest accolade was securing the national title in the 400-metre individual medley, and she was considered the state’s best-performed swimmer of the meet.

That the win was a come-from-behind swim in the last 50 metres for her first gold medal at school level made it all the more impressive.

Marsh said she wasn’t sure if she was going to be a chance for a podium finish at the half-way mark.

“I didn’t have any idea until the last 100 ,” she added.”I turned for the freestyle in fourth and though ‘I’m not going to finish fourth’, so I turned it on and was neck and neck with two girls until the last stroke. I had no idea I’d won until I looked up at the board.”

That wasn’t the end of what has turned out to be a packed month of medals for Marsh.She claimed five gold (100-metre individual medley, 200-metre individual medley and a new Victoria record time, 100-metre backstroke, 200-metre freestyle and 100-metre breaststroke) a fortnight ago at the Country Short Course Championship at Wangaratta.

There were also three silvers (200-metre butterfly, 100-metre butterfly, 100-metre freestyle) and three bronze (400-metre freestyle, 200-metre backstroke, 200-metre breaststroke) to go with the first-place finishes.

That haul came from 11 events – and she scored a podium place in every single one.

Then there was the State Open Championship last week in Melbourne – where she came seventh in Victoria in the 400-metre individual medley.

This coming weekend it’s the Age Short Course Championship, also in Melbourne.Her birthday has also afforded her another useful addition to her swimming career – the ability to train with heavy weights as her bones has now grown enough to take the strain of lifting in the gym.

“I just started personal training in the last couple of months so I’m working hard on that,” said Marsh.

Given that she will complete her year 12 studies at the end of 2012, a gap year seems a sensible idea – but there will be no university studies for Marsh in 2013.She will use the time off to focus on even more swimming.

“Next year I just want to train really hard,” Marsh said.

“Because of year 12 I have been cutting back on the sessions. I’ve done six to seven a week and I want to try and do 10 to 11 a week and really focus on my gym work.”

Despite the lack of university or college swimming scholarships in Australia, Marsh is also hoping to score a suitable time that will impress the coaches at the Australian Institute of Sport in the next two years – perhaps enough to catch the eye of national selectors in time for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014 – or the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.

Marsh said that she “could definitely see the events where positions are opening up” in the Australian team after what was considered by national officials as a disappointing pool meet in London recently.

“I’ll probably try to work some of those events a lot more…Next year I’m going to focus on my 400 individual medley and 200 fly mainly.”

Before those ambitions can be fulfilled, however, there’s the regular calendar of Geelong Swimming Club meets to get through – and as captain, too.

Most people would be familiar with the roles required of a footy or cricket team skipper, but a swimming captain’s job sounds pretty similar, really.

“Basically our role is to be real leaders to the rest of the club,” said Marsh, “showing the younger swimmers things like marshalling, starts and finishes”.

“We’re also trying to get a more team atmosphere around the club, so there’ll be more team bonding activities.”

The Victorian school team will certainly miss having Marsh around for the same reasons.

Schools captain Matt Haanappel said in his post-meet report after the Sydney championship that the state leadership group duly deserved to recognise Marsh’s “nine years of exceptional service” to the schools team.

“She has been an integral part of the leadership team for so many years,” he wrote.

“The TeamVic family will sorely miss your leadership and it will be very hard to replace such a character.”

And they really do mean a real character, apparently.

“Everyone sort of knows me a bit as the smiling assassin,” Marsh said.

“[Since I] can’t wipe the smile off my face.”

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