Sept. 22, 2004 - -One race up; one record down. It didn't take long for the Madison Hill era to get off to a fast start as the freshman swimmer, in her very first meet, sent waves through the Marana High School record books.
The much-anticipated high school debut of Hill paid immediate dividends for the Tigers. Against Flowing Wells High School in Wade McLean Pool, Hill swam her way to a Marana school record in the 100-yard backstroke.
"It was exciting," said Hill of breaking the record, "because it was my first race in high school."
The addition of Hill couldn't come at a better time for the Marana swim team, which is three months removed from the graduation of Lindsey Russenberger, one of the most prolific swimmers in the program's brief four-year history.
"As a freshman, Madison's butterfly stroke is faster than Lindsey's was when she was a freshman," said Marana assistant coach Kim Dillon. If anyone could tell the difference between the two swimmers it would be Dillon who is the mother of Russenberger.
While Russenberger was making a name for herself at Marana and swimming her way to a full scholarship at the University of Wyoming, Dillon already had her eye on the future.
"We've been waiting for her," said Dillon of Hill, whom the coach has been watching swim on club teams for the past three years.
Head coach Kristin Bourget and Dillon always knew they were getting something special talent-wise in Hill. What surprised the two coaches is the maturity level and work ethic of the freshman.
"To be a freshman and to be so committed to the team is rare," said Bourget, head coach of the Tigers since the program was started four years ago.
The students, who choose a team president, vice-president, treasurer, secretary and six captains, run the squad, said Dillon.
Hill is among those leaders voted as team officers, serving as team secretary, a position not often held by freshmen.
Hill's specialties in the pool include the 100-yard backstroke and the 100-yard butterfly stroke. Over the next few years, Bourget will be working with Hill to develop her freestyle stroke. Bourget has worked with Hill in the past when she coached her two summers ago for the Continental Ranch team in the Southern Arizona Aquatic Association.
Bourget was impressed with Hill's talent back then and will admit now that Hill's time in the 200 freestyle may be fast enough to beat some of the boys on her team.
"She's one of the hardest workers on this team," said Bourget, who has built Marana's program from 14 swimmers four years ago to 56 athletes in 2004. "She's the total package."
Hill flashed her versatility and willingness to do what's best for the team at the Tiger's meet against Douglas Sept. 16. Strongly outnumbering Douglas, Bourget decided to switch up the lineup and put swimmers in events that they do not often compete in. The move was an attempt to keep the meet competitive, give her team a challenge, and to avoid embarrassing the smaller Douglas squad.
Swimming in the 500-yard freestyle, the 100-yard breaststroke and the 200-yard medley relay, Hill settled for nothing short of first place in all three events, despite not being in her regular races.
With Hill's contribution Marana's girls squad cruised past Douglas 116-47. The boys team was successful as well, swimming to a 127-36 point win over Douglas.
Even with her recent success in the pool, the biggest concern about the freshman's ability to advance past the high school is in her height. At 5-foot, 4-inches, Hill is considered small compared to most successful swimmers who often start around 5-foot, 11-inches and taller, said Bourget.
"We're hoping she hits that growth spurt," said Bourget. Competing at a higher level with a shorter stature shouldn't be a problem for Hill who constantly draws comparisons to another former Marana swimmer who was the same height, Russenberger.
"We have extremely high hopes that we are going to have another All-American here at Marana," said Dillon of Hill, whose shorter strokes in the pool mean she has to work twice as hard to compete with taller competition.
For now Hill doesn't have to worry about college or beyond. She can concentrate on being a freshman and working on her backstrokes and freestyle.
"That would be exciting," said a humble Hill of competing after high school, " but I don't know if I'm at that level."
With one record in one meet, by the time Hill graduates in 2008 she may very well create whole a new level and raise the bar for those succeeding in the post Madison Hill era.