The odds of making it to college and playing in a sport are low, somewhere around seven percent of high school athletes reach that level. But to make it to a major division one college and play two, the odds are incalculable. However, that is what Century’s Erin Palmer is poised to do at the University of Utah next year.
It wasn’t always a quick start off the block for one of the best swimmers in North Dakota. Century’s Erin Palmer, a perennial state title contender for the Patriots, says fate made her fall into the sport she loves.
“One year, it was just really rainy so we decided not to do soccer,” says senior Erin Palmer. “So we decided to do an indoor sport. So we just kind of fell into swimming and we had no idea what we were doing, but we caught on pretty quick, my sister and I, and since then, we’ve been swimming for fun.”
From there, Palmer balanced life in the pool to life on the run. She is a distance runner in track and cross country, but injuries early in high school cause her to sharpen her focus, dedicating more time to the water.
“Swimming is definitely less demanding on your legs and bones and joints,” says Palmer. “But I think swimming won me over with the fact that there is less injury involved.”
That’s when the success came for Palmer. Head Coach of Century Spencer Wheeling was an assistant when she rejoined the team her sophomore season, one where he saw her emerge as the best in her event, the breaststroke.
“So when I first moved here my first year, she actually wasn’t swimming on the team that year,” says Girls Swimming and Diving Head Coach Spencer Wheeling. “But then the last two years and this year, having her back on the team, even now, she is making a dominant impression. Swimming all the races in every event. You can tell she is very well-rounded.”
But the running itch is still there for the senior, competing and winning state titles in the 4×800 relays and the 400 meters. Coaches seeing the benefits from being on the track and in the pool.
“Swimming has actually helped her a lot as far as the track side of things,” says Girls Track and Field Head Coach Brennan Doan. “When she gets to track, she’s already in great shape and we just have to focus on the speed aspect of things.”
Head Coach Brennan Doan says it’s her endurance that has been her biggest strength, outlasting her competitors when they are running out of gas.
“My coaches do a great job of reminding me to not overdo it, asking me questions every single day,” says Palmer. “How are you feeling? Do we need to adjust something for you and for our workout?’ But overall, I think they do a really good job of keeping my mental state positive.”
But the challenge facing Erin was to convince colleges to let her have a shot at playing both sports at the next level. That’s when she made a visit to the University of Utah.
“Yeah, we’ve had a girl in the past do both and she’s been successful with both,” says Palmer. “So that really stuck with me throughout my whole recruiting process. No other coaches were that enthusiastic about it.”
Palmer made a verbal commitment to the school in July, her coaches were thrilled at that opportunity.
“Because I know both are a very important part of her life,” says Wheeling. “And so the fact that she’s going to be able to do both at the University there is going to be great for her.”
“Being a college athlete is definitely very demanding,” says Doan. “Much less competing in two sports at the division one level. But if I think anyone can do it, I think it’s Erin. The dedication that she puts forth with track and swimming is phenomenal.”
“I really had to weigh the pros and cons of doing both and how I would feel choosing one over the other,” says Palmer. “And I ultimately decided that I loved both and in order to maintain doing a dual-sport, you have to be dedicated to both and love both equally. I think that was a challenge too. Just being able to find out what I disliked the sport. There wasn’t much to dislike about track or swimming. And I just couldn’t see myself choosing one over the other.”
Palmer will compete in swim and track as a Patriot for one last year, hoping to add a few more state titles to a decorated career.
“I know that it’s not going to be my last,” says Palmer. “So I guess that is comforting. But just being able to make those friendships and connections with the team is important because nothing else brings people together better than high school sports.”