World-class swimmer has local ties


Hannah Stevens calls Galion her second home. She lives in Lexington and attends college in Columbia, Missouri, where she is a member of the Mizzou swim team.

But make no mistake, she’s most at home in the water, specifically a pool.

The 21-year-old University of Missouri sophomore — by just 68 hundredths of a second — missed qualifying for the U.S. Olympic swim team this week. Her time of 59.97 seconds in the finals of the 100-meter backstroke Tuesday evening at the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska, was better than the Olympic qualifying mark, but not quite good enough to earn her a spot on the American team in the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro.

‘I’m not unhappy,” Stevens said. “I’m happy for the girls who made the team. And I made the finals in the Olympic trials. How can I be unhappy?”

In fact, if you had watched the Olympic Trials on TV, you would have seen Hannah hugging the other participants in her race, and then smiling as she got out of the pool.

Hannah is the daughter of former Galion native Melanie (Englehart) Stevens and Bob Stevens.

“That’s just the way she is,” Melanie said. “The other swimmers, they’re all like family.”

Melanie grew up on Union Street and graduated from Galion High School.

“Hannah spent a lot of time in Galion at her grandma’s house,” Melanie said. “It really was a second home to her.”

Hannah’s grandparent’s are the late Ruth and Wilbert Englehart.

One of the Engelhart’s Union Street neighbor called the Inquirer on Wednesday morning, reminding the staff that Hannah has ties to Galion.

Hannah Stevens got into swimming by following in her father’s footsteps, or more accurately, following in his wake. Bob grew up in Parma and and swam on the YMCA team, then at Padua High School and for a year in college.

“But I have no idea where she got this kind of drive,” Bob said. “She works as hard and puts in as more time as anyone I’ve ever known. She starts out at 5 in the morning and with swimming and classes and yoga and everything else, she’s at it until 10 every night.”

Still she’s managed a 3.70 GPA.

“That may be what we’re most proud of,” he said.

It’s been a great week in Omaha

“But very emotional,” Melanie said. “When they introduced Hannah at the start of her race, I cried. And now, every time I see that picture of her I cry.”

“And the atmosphere out here, it is electrifying,” Bob said.

Two hours after Hannah graduated from Lexington High School, she was on a plane to Missouri to start working out with the swim team. Too say she is serious about swimming is an understatement.

“I guess I’ve been thinking about this for a while,” Hannah said. “I had a lot of success early, so I thought this is something that might be a possibility.”

Hannah knew her chances at the Olympics would require a lot of time and hard work and drive. And as focused and determined as she is, she puts little pressure on herself.

“All I can do is the best I can do,” she said. “I have no control over what the other swimmers might do. I never put to much pressure on myself. Whatever happened, was going to happen.”

The backstroke is her specialty. The 100 backstroke is her best race. And she came so close to making the Olympic team. And she did swim in the 200 backstroke Friday night, and she never says never when it comes to her chances of success.

The backstroke is something Hannah had to learn to like.

“That was always her best race,” Melanie said. “But I remember, it was either her coach at Clear Fork or with the Mansfield Waves, always made her swim the backstroke, because she was so good at it. I can still remember her getting out of the pool and telling me how much she hated it.”

Hannah said her odds of qualifying for the Olympic team are not as good in the 200. But she’s not counting herself out.

“If I do what I know I can do, I should be able to get into the semifinals,” she said. “I’ll need to have a 2:12 or 2:13, but I think I can do that.”

But to advance even further, she’ll have to cut another five seconds or so off her time.

“2:08 or faster,” she said. “But anything is possible.”

That’s the type of attitude that carried her from Lexington, to Missouri and onto the Olympic Trials.

And if she doesn’t make the 2016 team, 2020 is just four short years away.

“I’ve thought about it,” she said. “They started a post-graduate program at Missouri. But I don’t know yet.”

The 200 finale was race after the Inquirer went to press Friday. So Hannah is either back at her training regiment this morning, or she is taking well-deserved break from the pool.

“If not the Olympics, I think it will be kind of nice to take some time off,” she said.

Hannah Stevens reacts after being introduced before the 100-meter backstroke at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska on Tuesday. Melanie (Englehart) Stevens and Hannah Stevens. Stevens reacts after being introduced before the 100-meter backstroke at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska on Tuesday. Melanie (Englehart) Stevens and Hannah Stevens.
Hannah Stevens’ mom, grandparents are from Galion

By Russell Kent

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