While just about everyone else in America is getting wrapped up in the Missy Franklin story from London, Amy (Wagner) Haley has had trouble embracing the United State’s swimming wunderkind.
It’s nothing against the Colorado teen, who seems to be grabbing gold every time she gets into the pool specifically, as much as it is the Olympics as a whole.
“It kind of pulls on my heart strings,” said Haley, whose maiden name is Wagner. “It brings back good memories, but is kind of tough to watch.”
Haley knows a bad back kept her from her Olympic dreams and while she retired from competition in 2008, the letdown of never getting that chance is still raw.
“There are some of those times where you think about what could have been,” the Mountain Pointe graduate said. “It’s not something I think about all the time, but with the Olympics going on it is hard not to when it’s all over the place.”
Haley has other things to celebrate in her life, including 9-month-old twins Caleb and Grace, like being part of the six-member induction class into the Mountain Pointe Hall of Fame.
“I am so honored and proud,” Haley said. “I feel like I owe Mountain Pointe for all that they have done for me, not the other way around. I had an incredible experience at Mountain Pointe and it was a special time.”
The ceremony, which includes a pre-game barbecue, the ceremony, including the unveiling of the plaques, and a parade at halftime of the Pride’s game against Mesa, is Aug. 31 at the school.
“She is so very deserving,” Mountain Pointe swim coach Steve Mancuso said. “If anyone from the Mountain Pointe swim team is going to be honored in the school’s hall of fame she should be the first.”
It’s pretty clear that Haley was special in the pool.
Haley, who has been married to Ben for three years, was a six-time All-America swimmer best known for her backstroke as she was named the Arizona Swimmer of the Year as a senior in the 2000-01 season. She won two state titles in the 100-meter backstroke in her career and one in the 100 fly, along with helping the Pride to six relay state titles.
High school swimming serves as a break for many of the hard-core swimmers who concentrate on club swimming.
It was no different for Haley, but her memories of having fun in and out of the pool all stem from her time with the Pride.
“I remember getting all decked out (before school), doing our hair and makeup in the bathroom and promoting that we had a meet that day,” said Haley, who lives in north Phoenix and works for financial firm Vanguard. “All of the girls would get together and we had a blast.
“Club swimming is where you work as an individual, but with high school you had a chance to take it a little bit easier. You are still working hard and trying to win, but we had a lot of fun.”
Mancuso said Haley was at the center of it.
“Amy was the kind of person all of her peers looked up to and what they saw was someone who always had a smile on her face,” Mancuso said. “She went about competing and leading with a very special approach. I don’t know if anyone else we have ever had at Mountain Pointe combined the ability to lead, have fund and dominate the way Amy did.”
The success continued in college, as a freshman she was part of the 400 medley relay team that set the America record, where Haley was a seven-time All-American for the Cardinal. After winning two NCAA titles and six All-American honors her first two years with Stanford, Haley ended up having back surgery her junior year and it derailed her career just a bit.
There’s no question that it held back her Olympic ideals.
She never quite qualified for the 2000 Olympic Trials as a junior in high school — like Franklin — but Haley did have qualifying times in 2004 and 2008 only to have back problems keep her from giving it a shot.
“When I think about what I accomplished I am extremely pleased and satisfied,” she said. “I did everything I could and competed hard every time out.”
WhileHaley was hesitant to say she would have been an Olympian had the back problem never became an issue, Mancuso has no doubt.
“Amy handled it with class and dignity as she does everything,” he said. “I know what she would have been if it never happened. It came easy to her and she had a great work ethic and I know a healthy Amy would have been in Athens or Beijing. She was that good.”
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