This story appeared in the St. Louis edition of the Jan./Feb. ESPN RISE Magazine.
Hallie Stupp had some unfinished business to take care of.
She had just placed second in the 200 individual medley at last year's Missouri state swimming meet. And although she had shaved more than two seconds off her preliminary time, she thought she could have done even more to win the race. That fueled her motivation going into her next event, the 100 butterfly. She felt she could outdo her prelim time again, and she believed her first state title was within reach.
She was absolutely right. Then a junior at MICDS (St. Louis, Mo.), Stupp took control of the race from the get-go and won by nearly a full second in 54.95. Not only had she chopped more than 1.5 seconds off her prelim time, she had cut more than three-tenths of a second off the state record.
"I didn't even know what the state record was," says Stupp, now a senior. "Mentally, I really wanted it, and I wasn't going to give it up to anybody else."
Stupp owed the victory as much to her ultra-competitive nature as to her exceptional talent. Whether it's playing Monopoly with her family or pushing herself in the pool, Stupp never wants to lose.
"I knew she was (competitive) from the start," says Stupp's older sister Julie, "because when we would play FIFA and Mario Kart on Nintendo, she would get so mad about losing."
That mentality helped propel Stupp into the elite class of swimming recruits, and she signed with Arizona in November. In doing so, she continued her family's Division I college athletics legacy. Her father, John, was a golfer at Lehigh and her mother, Julie, played field hockey at Missouri. Her sister Nora, 25, was a swimmer at Duke, her sister Julie, 23, swam at Auburn and Arizona, and her brother Johnny, 22, plays water polo at Bucknell. Her brother Tommy, 14, plays water polo, soccer and football.
Hallie learned to swim when she was 3 years old, joining Nora and Julie in the pool whenever possible. At 6, she joined her first club team, Clayton Shaw Park Swimming.
"She wanted to be as good as us, if not beat us," Julie recalls. "She still teases me all the time. She's like, 'I can beat you.'"
When she was in middle school, Stupp switched to her current club team, Parkway Swim Club. She also began playing field hockey and running track, both of which she competed in as a freshman at MICDS.
That was the same year the Missouri State High School Activities Association started allowing dual participation for swimmers, giving them the chance to compete with their club and high school teams. As a sophomore, Stupp decided to drop field hockey and track and tackle both club and high school swimming.
"My sisters never got the opportunity to swim in high school, so they encouraged me to do it," Stupp says. "I figured I would just try it and see if I liked it. I enjoyed it."
She excelled as a sophomore, scoring a second-place finish in the 100 fly and a third-place result in the 200 IM at the state meet to earn All-Metro first team honors from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
As a junior, she led MICDS to an undefeated regular season, an MWAA conference title and a fourth-place state finish to again nab a spot on the Post-Dispatch All-Metro first team. In addition to her performances in the 200 IM and the 100 fly at states, she helped the 200 medley relay team take third and the 400 free relay squad take fourth.
"She's always had four really good strokes," says MICDS coach Kristen Kaiser, a former swimmer at Utah who swam with Nora and Julie growing up and has known Hallie almost all her life. "She pays attention to detail, which is great, especially for a sprinter like a 100 flyer. Swimming at Arizona will only enhance everything that she's built to this point."
This season, Stupp is involved with her club and high school teams for the third consecutive year. While she's looking to improve her breaststroke, she's also lifting weights to get stronger and working on getting a better jump off the starting block.
Stupp works one-on-one with strength trainer Brett Fischer, a former football player who had brief stints with the Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs after starring in college at Missouri-Rolla. He puts Stupp through explosive drills, like squat jumps, and focuses on an athletic style of training in which she mimics swimming motions in each exercise.
"I really believe he is a big reason why I improved a lot last year," Stupp says.
Though she's unsure what events she'll enter at state this year, Stupp is aiming to take home two more individual state titles. After that, it will be on to Tucson, where she plans to pursue her interest in interior design.
The Wildcats boast one of the nation's premier women's swimming teams and won the 2008 national title. Stupp will use her time at Arizona to help the squad build on that success while also preparing individually for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. She watched her sister Julie reach the finals in the 400 IM at the 2008 Trials and wants to follow in her path.
"I think it would be so cool to compete at the Olympics," Stupp says.
Considering her competitive drive, there's no doubt Stupp will do everything in her power to earn a trip to London in 2012.