By Tori Wittenbrock
ASHWAUBENON – Seventeen-year-old Sienna Nitke’s hard work and dedication to her sport was recently recognized when she earned the All-American title for the 100 freestyle upon the conclusion of her junior season at Ashwaubenon High School.
“I first learned how to swim in a hotel pool when I was around five years old. My swim teacher encouraged me to join a swim team, so I joined Ashwaubenon’s swim club and I instantly fell in love with the sport,” said Nitke.
After years of training to reach the highest level of performance in her sport, Nitke’s All-American accomplishment has not come easily.
Each All-American athlete must post a specific qualifying time, in addition to having one of the fastest 100 times in the nation for their event.
“I do middle distance and sprint freestyle. My best events are the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle,” said Nitke.
However, her favorite event is the 100 freestyle — the one that gained her the much-coveted All-American title.
When Nitke earned her All-American title, she placed 72nd out of the top 100 times in the entire nation with a time of 50.57 in the 100 freestyle event.
Nitke said that all of the extra work that has gone into this accomplishment has been what put her over the top and gave her the edge against many of her competitors.
“Outside of regular training at the pool, I do personal training at Synergy Sports Performance and I focus on a healthy diet that will help my performance,” said Nitke.
“I definitely had to sacrifice a lot of my free time to train. I don’t have a lot of time to hang out with friends or go places with my family because I’m always at the pool. But I have also made a lot of friends through the shared experience of training.”
Yet, Nitke said she has learned a lot through her experiences as an athlete and that she would not be where she is today without having to overcome certain challenges.
“One huge struggle that I encountered was when I had a frequent change of coaches. My swim team has had five different coaches in the span of four years. Each coach had a very different training style, which was very hard to adapt to,” said Nitke.
In addition to this struggle that affected the entire team, Nitke had some problems of her own that posed some other difficulties in her ability to perform.
“I have never had a season-ending injury, but I have had many problems with tight and painful shoulders. With training so often and with so many yards, my arms and shoulders are constantly sore. I have been trying to fix this and prevent future injury by going to physical therapy.”
However, Nitke said she is taking the necessary steps to ensure that her body is prepared to carry her to the next meet.
Most young athletes rarely see success without the help, guidance and support of others — Nitke is no exception.
“I am very appreciative to have such a supportive family and group of friends. My parents are very supportive and helpful when it comes to my swimming career. I am also constantly supported by my coaches and my friends that push me in practice,” she added.
Nitke said that she is often able to take the advice she is given and translate it into her performance in the water.
“I am very nervous before every race I swim, and one of my coaches said that I should channel the nerves into my race. She told me it is normal to be nervous because it proves that racing and swimming truly matter to me. This advice helped me realize that nerves were a good thing that can be channeled into my swimming,” she said.
As far as mentality goes, Nitke said that her ability to focus is relatively solid.
According to her, each meet is different, and each opponent requires their own focus and attention.
She races not only against her opponents, but against herself.
“When I’m at a meet, I’m usually focused on a good place and a good time. When I dive into the water for a race, I set my sights on someone and then I either try to stay ahead, or stick with the leader. Sometimes when I am just trying to beat someone, I come out of the race with the best time. Other times, I am solely focused on my time because I know I won’t have anyone to race. It truly depends on the stroke of the race, the distance of the race and the present competition in the heat or race,” Nitke stated.
In addition to her most-impressive All-American title, Nitke has also been able to obtain for herself a commitment to compete at the Division I collegiate level at Purdue University in the fall of 2024.
“I am most excited to swim at Purdue because I have always swam for a small team with limited resources. Purdue, being in the BIG Ten, has a plethora of resources, such as an amazing olympic size pool, trainers, nutritionists, physical therapists, high level coaching and a motivated group of girls to train with. It is also a great academic institution that provides resources to ensure that the athletes get an outstanding education,” said Nitke.
Gaining a college commitment is a long-time goal for many high school athletes, but it can often be a long and stressful process; one for which Nitke was well prepared.
“I was first contacted by multiple teams in June after my sophomore year. By the end of October, I had narrowed it down to UW-Madison and Purdue, both of whom offered me an athletic scholarship. I gave a lot of thought to my decision over the next month, but in the end, I thought that Purdue would be a better fit for me, so I gave my verbal commitment in November. Although it is farther from home, I felt like it would be a new experience swimming with girls who I have never competed with before.”
Despite her success with swim, Nitke said that it is important to have interests outside of her sport that bring her a sense of enjoyment.
“Outside of swimming, I love traveling, watersports, downhill skiing and boating. My family loves to travel so we take lots of trips to exciting places, such as Belize, Jamaica and Hawaii. When we aren’t traveling, my family and I go up north to our cottage and spend time on the lake. I really enjoy boating, tubing and wakeboarding. When winter comes around, I love to go up north or take trips to Colorado to downhill ski.”
Nitke will enter her senior season in Fall of this year, continuing to compete and swim for Ashwaubenon High School.
She said she is looking forward to seeing what these next few years of competition and hard work will bring her.