POCATELLO — Kaitlyn Shelley needed a break.

As an eighth-grader in 2016, Shelley was burned out and stopped swimming for the Portneuf Valley Swim Club. Swimming was a major piece in Shelley’s life since she was 2 years old, and she lost her passion for being in the pool. Shelley’s final club event came in 2016 in Seattle. Since then, she has decompressed, swimming only for Century High.

Shelley has been a consistent force for the Diamondbacks’ swim team over the last three years, including a standout junior campaign. Shelley is the Journals’ 2018 All-Area Girls Swimmer of the Year.

Shelley was the top local girls swimmer and had the pedigree to back it. The junior had seven top-two individual finishes this season, including six first-place marks. Shelley’s main events were the 50-meter freestyle and 100-meter butterfly.

At the 4A state meet in November, Shelley notched a first-place finish in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 25.05 seconds. Shelley was also on the D-backs’ relay team that finished sixth in the girls 200-yard medley, but she was disqualified in the 100 butterfly.

“I felt like Kaitlyn resolved to make this year as successful as possible. … Kaitlyn expects the world, and then some, out of herself,” Pocatello/Highland/Century swim coach Karen Homstad said. “She was doubtful how the season would work out, but she tapered well and raced like a beast at state.”

Shelley has reignited her passion for swimming with the help of her friends. Swimming with buddies has been the guiding force for Shelley, who moved to Idaho from Arizona in the first grade.

Shelley said her friends are the ones who motivate her to stay in the pool.

Kaitlyn Shelley 2018 POY 2

Century’s Kaitlyn Shelley is the Journal’s 2018 Girls Swimmer of the Year

“They are what makes it fun,” Shelley said. “When you are getting through sets, they are the ones who motivate you. I wouldn’t be there without them.”

One of those friends was Stephanie, Kaitlyn’s older sister. The two grew up together swimming in their backyard pool in Arizona and on the same club teams. Kaitlyn and Stephanie shared the pool from when Kaitlyn was 2 years old until she was a freshman at Century.

“I remember watching her swim and wanting to be like her,” Kaitlyn said. “It was always my goal to beat her. I looked up to her.”

Kaitlyn’s strong junior season may be the last moment of her swimming career. The junior has not decided if she will return to Century’s swim team next season.

If 2018 was her final year competitively swimming, Kaitlyn said she will walk away fulfilled.

“There are three things that make great athletes: talent, mental grit, and the opportunity to participate,” Homstad said. “Kaitlyn has all of them.”