CEDAR FALLS | Montana Clasby comes from a family that doesn't dip its toes in the water. The Clasbys jump right in.
Born in New Zealand, Clasby went from crawling as a baby right into the water and has been a natural ever since. Her family packed up and moved to several places, including England, Washington, Montana and eventually, Iowa when she was six years old.
She enjoyed her share of success as a prep swimmer for the Tigers. Now she's making her mark at the collegiate level, setting a new school record in the 200 breaststroke while competing for
College at the NCAA Division II Championships last March.
"I set the record that morning in preliminaries (2:17.23), then broke that (2:16.11) in the finals," Clasby said. "I finished ninth there and now I am determined to make the podium this year. That is my goal -- to be standing on that podium as one of the best swimmers."
Clasby's drive came from her early years when her father, Daniel, always encouraged her to reach high.
"He always was right there for me in a good way," Clasby said. "My whole family has been there for me. Dad would always push me when I wanted to give up and would tell me I could not let myself down or my team. He knows me so well and he would always know what I was thinking."
As a senior swimming for Cedar Falls High, Clasby had to once again draw on the strength of her family. Just 72 hours shy of state qualifying in the 100 breaststroke, Clasby fell ill and later found out her appendix had ruptured and required immediate surgery.
Clasby returned home from the hospital on Thursday and with encouragement from her father, found herself in the pool on Friday.
"I just did nothing but float in the water on Friday afraid to make the mechanics of the breaststroke," Clasby said. "My stomach hurt, but I began the motions and by Saturday I wanted to be there for my team."
Clasby reached back for strength from her cousin Jodi.
"My cousin Jodi was a miracle baby," Clasby said. "She had a heart disease and and was not supposed to live very long. She lived a very productive life and passed away when she was 40, during my junior year. She was my role model, and sometimes when I get down I just think, what would Jodi do?"
Clasby didn't make it to state at that qualifying meet, but won the hearts of her team and head coach Dick Marcussen.
"I was disappointed for her that she didn't make it," Marcussen said. "Not everyone can handle that stress level and come back so quickly. She was a record holder for us and one of the top breaststrokers in the state. She was definitely an inspiration to the rest of the team.
"She is really a great person and a great athlete with natural talents," continued Marcussen. "She came through any adversity put in front of her. She never cut corners and her success is found in her confidence and hard work."
Clasby struggled in her first season at Lewis University, but then rose to the top as a sophomore, receiving the Scholar All-America award given out by the College Swimming Coaches of America, which recognizes swimmers who qualified and competed at the national championship meet and earned a cumulative or term grade-point average of 3.5 or higher.
"With an award like this that combines academic and athletic achievement it's a great sign for the program that we're seeing more and more student-athletes honored," Flyers coach Roger Karns said. "I'm happy to see her hard work recognized."
Karns was not shocked by Clasby's early achievements knowing he received exactly the person he recruited.
"The only way I know to lead is to be me," Clasby said. "When you race it is hard for one or two minutes, and then it is over. You have to push yourself and that will make you successful the rest of your life."
Clasby's younger sister, Maia, will be taking to the water this season under the tutelage of Marcussen as a Tiger.
"Maia is a freshman now at Cedar Falls," Clasby said. "She will be in the breaststroke and I really hope that she can break a new school record."