Victor Hsiao doesn’t have a lot of free time.
Take the average day for the Interlake swimmer. He rises around 4:30 a.m. and packs a few snacks for the day. Fifteen minutes later, he’s left the house and on his way to the Pro Sports Club in Bellevue, where he’s in the pool by 5 a.m.
At 6:30 a.m. he leaps out of the pool, showers and heads to Interlake, where he starts at 7:45 a.m. because of his enrollment in the school’s gifted program. At 12:15 p.m. he’s on the road to Seattle, where he interns until 2:45 p.m. Then it’s back to the Pro Sports Club for more swimming practice. Six p.m. marks the start of practice for Interlake’s swim team, where Hsiao is until about 9:30 p.m. After that comes homework and sleep.
“Usually I don’t spend a lot of time dilly-dallying,” Hsiao said. “I kind of go, go, go.”
The constant motion has served Hsiao well in the pool. This fall saw him become the first person in Interlake High School history to achieve “Ironman” status – that is, hitting state-qualifying times in all eight individual events – three years in a row.
That means hitting tough marks in the 50 free, 100 free, 200 free, 500 free, 100 back, 100 breast, 100 fly and 200 IM, a formidable challenge for any competitor.
“It’s definitely very difficult, considering all the strokes,” said Interlake swim coach Christina Hunsberger. “It’s a very hard feat to accomplish three years in a row. If there was one person that could do it though, it’s Victor.”
THE IRONMAN COMETH
Victor Hsiao didn’t always know what being an Ironman meant.
A self-described “swim nerd”, Hsiao read an article about a Mercer Island female swimmer who achieved Ironman status four years in a row. That planted a seed.
That seed grew to fruition sophomore year, when Hsiao achieved the eight state-qualifying times and finished second in the 100 back and fourth in the 100 fly at the state meet (he also swam the 200 medley and 200 free relays).
He followed that up with a junior campaign that saw him again achieve Ironman status and improve at the state meet, where he swam the 200 medley relay, the 400 free relay, the 100 fly (4th) and the 100 back, where he tied for first and also tied the meet record with a time of 54.02.
“It was just a great moment,” Hunsberger said. “It really was. I was jumping up with him. It was great.”
But Hsiao wasn’t done. He had a new goal this year – to achieve Ironman status again, but this time to get the time on his first try on each event.
“I’ve just really trained on all four of my strokes instead of just focusing on my state events,” said Hsiao, who pointed out he had to especially work on his freestyle strokes. “With eight events, you’re not going to be strong in all of them.”
The senior achieved the final mark on Jan. 13 against Liberty with a 54.88 in the 100 fly – becoming the school’s only three-time Ironman.
“It was pretty exciting and I was pretty nervous,” Hsiao said. “My teammates have been really supportive. They had a running countdown for me getting it; they were excited. It was really cool.”
“In terms of an athlete, he’s so well-rounded,” Hunsberger said. “It doesn’t surprise me that he was able to accomplish it.”
DRY LAND SUCCESSES
The senior hasn’t just found success in the pool.
Aside from his enrollment in Interlake’s gifted program, he’s an intern at the Institute for Systems Biology, where he works on writing computer programs to convert raw data into data usable for scientists.
Back at school, he’s the Senior Class Secretary, as well as a member of Key Club and the Honor Society. He’s president of both, as well as an active member of the youth group at his church, the Evangelical Chinese Church in Redmond.
“Usually on my weekends, I don’t spend a lot of time playing video games or things like that,” Hsiao said. “I get my homework done that I need for the week. My friends call me an over-acheiver, because I finish my labs and things a couple days before, just in case we have something unexpected come up.”
He’s also found a niche as a quasi-assistant coach with Interlake’s swim team. The team ballooned to 60 boys this season, and with six lanes available for practice, Hsiao and some of the other captains serve as mini-coaches in lieu of time in the water.
“He is an awesome upperclassman in terms of picking out kids that need help and helping them,” Hunsberger said. “Victor gives them really good pointers … he’s really brought an extra level, not only in the pool but out of the pool as well.”
ON TO STATE
Hsiao and the rest of the qualified Saints will swim in this weekend’s KingCo Conference Meet, held at the University of Washington pool. While some swimmers, like Hsiao, have already achieved state times, don’t expect them to take it easy.
“The KingCo meet, I would say, is harder than state,” he said. “I’m not really worried about placing, but I do make sure I swim hard at it. I don’t take it lightly.”
Following the KingCo meet will be the District Meet, held Feb. 10-12, followed by the Feb. 18 state championship meet at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way. Hsiao will attempt to defend his title in the 100 back, and will race in one other individual and two relay swims.
“I don’t really know where I’m seeded right now; most people placing are going to be club swimmers and we’re all in-season training right now,” Hsiao said. “I think I’ve been training a lot harder than last year. I hope I can defend the title.”
Regardless of state glory, Hsiao has already etched his way into school swimming lore. And in the same way he’s left his mark in Interlake swimming, the team has also left its mark on him.
“I just want to say, I’ve really enjoyed the team,” he said. “I really enjoy watching it, especially some of the boys without a lot of experience … swimming is all about loving what you do and not necessarily going for results. I might be faster and I might be able to hit those times, but loving what you do, that’s what high school swim has brought into my perspective.”
The future is indeed bright for Interlake’s Ironman. With three more meets to add to his already-impressive resume, his coach says there’s much more in store for him in the future, outside the pool.
“Victor really is the type of person, whatever he puts his mind to, he can accomplish,” Hunsberger said. “The world is his oyster.”