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Saturday, February 28, 2015 |  Madison, WI: -8.0° F  Fair
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WIAA's Big Eight Conference is a powerhouse in girls' swimming
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Beata Nelson smashed the state record for the 100-yard butterfly at 52.06 seconds last year.
Credit:Jeremy Jones / Verona Press

If you were to ask high school Big Eight Conference swimmers Beata Nelson and Rachel Powers what they did during their summer vacations, you better have a little time on your hands. Because the Olympic hopefuls accomplished a lot.

Nelson is a junior at Verona Area High School and the second-fastest high school girls' 100-yard butterfly swimmer in the country last year. Earlier this month, she was the youngest finalist in the 50-meter long-course butterfly at the 2014 Phillips 66 Senior National Championships in Irvine, Calif., finishing 10th with a time of 26.88 seconds. She's already accumulated four individual Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 1 state titles, and in March she won the 50-yard backstroke at the National Club Swimming Association's Spring Championships in Orlando with a personal-best 24.02 seconds.

Powers, a sophomore at Sun Prairie High School, is catching up with Nelson on the national level. She participated in the NCSA Spring Championships, as well as this month's NCSA Summer Championships in Indianapolis. She qualified for December's 2014 Speedo Winter Junior National Championships in Federal Way, Wash., in the 400- and 800-meter long-course freestyle -- events in which she currently is ranked seventh and fifth, respectively, in Wisconsin. The next goal for Powers? A national championship meet.

Nelson and Powers -- along with other standout swimmers including Maya Gomez (Madison Memorial), Shelby Rozeboom (Verona), Victoria Lin (Middleton) and Kynzie Huonker (Sun Prairie) -- lead what is arguably the toughest girls' swimming conference in the state. Five Big Eight schools placed among the top 12 teams at last November's WIAA Division 1 State Meet, with many top-six Big Eight finishers in individual events. The 2014 season opens Aug. 29 with a full slate of conference dual meets. (See the season schedule at bit.ly/girlsswimmingschedule.)

The Big Eight has long been a powerhouse in the pool. Ivy Martin, a Madison East alum with a decorated swimming career at the UW-Madison, recently earned a spot on the U.S. National Team in the 50-meter freestyle at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships in Australia. And graduating seniors Ashley Aegerter and Karley Licking, both from Middleton, and Madison West's Jo Jekel placed consistently high in state and national competitions.

That said, the current roster of Big Eight girls' swimmers might be its best yet.

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