After seeing his junior season cut short by injury last year, Hays High swimmer Isaac Smith was hoping the setback wouldn't hinder his chances to swim in college.
"Last year, I actually broke my collarbone, and for a while, I didn't really know (what impact it would have)," Smith said. "But this year I got the chance to start talking to some coaches and I realized, 'Wow, I actually have a chance to do this.' "
Smith made it official on Tuesday, signing his letter of intent to swim at Sterling College.
He bounced back from the injury and is primed for a big senior season in the pool for the Indians.
"It was tough, but I had a good mindset about it," Smith said of recovering from the broken collarbone. "I told myself that I would push through it and get stronger for the coming year, which is now."
Smith said he's realizing a childhood goal to swim in college.
"Really, since I was about 10 years old was when I started noticing I had a chance to do something great and really go to the next level," Smith said. "Ever since I was 10, I've been really training to do that and get to the next level, and hopefully succeed at it."
He will join an upstart Sterling swimming program that is currently in the middle of its first year of competition. Sterling swimming coach Gary Kempf was in attendance for Smith's signing.
"When I went there, I noticed that everybody knew each other," Smith said of his visit to Sterling. "Everybody would pass by and say hey to each other. I thought it was super cool.
"The program, I thought it was a very tight-knit program, and I just loved how it felt like a family. I feel very welcomed there."
Smith will again become teammates with former HHS swimmer Scout Perryman, who signed with Sterling last April and is competing in his freshman season with the Warriors.
"It will be a lot of fun swimming with him, and I have a couple other friends swimming there, so it will be a lot of fun," Smith said.
After sending a swimmer on to college in each of the last two years, Smith hopes the Hays High swimming program continues to grow.
"When I first got here, signing for swimming at Hays High was pretty much unheard of," Smith said. "When I got here, I wanted to make it a point that swimming shouldn't be left out and it's a big deal. We can have good swimmers here too, not just other sports. It's been a goal of mine to really bring swimming into the limelight here at Hays High."
Smith competes in a variety of events, including the 50-yard freestyle, 100 breaststroke and 100 butterfly. In the Salina Central meet last week, Smith won the 100 breaststroke in 1:05.90.
"It's the beginning of the season, so there's only room to improve, but I feel, as of now, very confident with everything," Smith said.
Smith has qualified for state each year but couldn't compete last year because of the injury.
"My goal this year is to place at state and hopefully win," Smith said.
He said it's a relief to have his college plans finalized.
"It's been very stressful for me and my family to really decide," Smith said. "I'm very thankful and fortunate that I had the opportunity to decide very early on and to know where I want to go next year."