By Mike Watkins//Correspondent
In the pool, Laura Sogar races like an eight-year-old.
At least that’s what she’s been accused of for years by her coaches because of her somewhat impish approach and reaction to competition – and for the most part, she’s okay with it.
She knows what works best for her, even if that sometimes means figuratively taking out a competitor’s kneecap to meet her goals.
“I hate losing, and I will pull out all the stops to beat the girl next to me,” said Sogar, a senior with the University of Texas Longhorn swimmers. “Racing is really what I love most about swimming, especially when it gets tough at the end and it becomes a contest over who has the most composure and can keep their stroke together while continuing to push the envelope.”
Pushing forward in the water is something Sogar has been doing ever since she started swimming at 5 years old. She evolved through the sport with a love/hate relationship – hating to go to workouts but absolutely loving it once she was there in the water among her friends.
As she grew older, she started having more and more success and was hooked – enjoying seeing her hard work pay off in the times on the scoreboard as well as the many relationships she forged in and out of the pool.
“When I was younger, I loved horseback riding and had to choose between riding and swimming once the time commitments grew,” said Sogar, who grew up in Rhode Island and swam on the same Bluefish Swim Club with Olympian Elizabeth Beisel. “I had a pony named Arby who hated me, so that helped me make the decision, but I still really enjoy riding when I get the chance.”
This love for and dedication to the sport eventually led Sogar to Austin to swim for the Longhorns, where she has enjoyed a successful, All-American career.
And while she admits there wasn’t a particular event or race when she had an epiphany that she was going to be one of the best breaststrokers in the world, that realization has lifted her with each meet.
She enjoyed her greatest success thus far at the 2012 Olympic Trials earlier this summer – finishing fourth in the 200 breaststroke and missing the podium and the plane to London by just two spots. She also made the consolation finals in the 100 breast and competed in the 200 individual medley.
Even though she was in Omaha four years earlier for Trials, Sogar said she approached this year’s meet with a completely different attitude – and it paid big dividends.
“Four years ago, I felt very overwhelmed by the whole experience; it was incredible but also intimidating and my nerves got to me,” Sogar said. “This year, my goal was to use my excitement and nerves in a positive manner and have them give me energy rather than stress me out. I tried to soak in the whole experience and enjoy having my family and friends around me which really ended up working well.
“My expectations going into Trials were fairly low honestly, because for the three months preceding the meet I had been training with three different coaches and I knew that there was a chance that the meet could end not in my favor. Throughout the whole transition period though, I continued to work hard with what I was given and I ended up being pleasantly surprised with the results.”
Sogar followed up her promising performance at Trials with an equally strong showing a few weeks later at the U.S. Open – where she won the 200 breast and finished second in the 100 breast – and earned a spot on next year’s U.S. World University Games team competing next summer in Kazan, Russia – her first senior level National Team.
With this being her final season at Texas, she said she has set some personal goals but is more focused on her team results. With her most successful summer of swimming behind her, she is squarely primed for her post-collegiate swimming life but is prepared to take things day by day to see if she’s destined to chase a spot on the 2016 Olympic Team or focus her attention on a post-swimming career.
“Making this team (World University Games) means a lot to me because it gives me another big meet next summer to work toward and evaluate my future in swimming,” said Sogar, an economics major at Texas with thoughts of going back to school in the future to pursue a second degree in engineering.
“A lot of my decisions will be based on how I swim next summer, so right now I’m focusing on putting myself in a position where it will be very difficult for me to leave the sport.”