Making a national splash

dmcqueen@lsjournal.comApril 9, 2014 

Olympic gold-medal swimmer Ryan Lochte held a clinic last month at the Lee’s Summit Aquatic Center. Lance Godard was there, too.

Lance got an autograph, of course, and had his picture taken with his hero. They chatted for 10 minutes, and the two even got in the pool together for a race.

“That kind of motivated me,” Lance said.

Swimming’s present, meet swimming’s future.

Lance Godard may only be 10 years old, but saying he has an Olympic future isn’t that much of a stretch. The fifth grader at Richardson Elementary School in Lee’s Summit and member of the KC Blazers swimming team has already established himself as one of the fastest at his age in the United States. Next week he will compete against some of the nation’s best talent at the Elite Showcase Classic Swimming Championship in Clearwater, Fla.

The national meet is just the latest step in Lance’s rapid rise to the swimming elite. Last summer he was the No. 2 overall boys swimmer at the Missouri Valley Central Zone Meet in Topeka, Kan. Then at last month’s Missouri Valley Short Course championships, also in Topeka, Lance won all 11 races he entered, setting four Missouri Valley records and recording the nation’s fastest time in one event.

“It’s somewhat surreal when you think about what he’s accomplished in becoming one of the fastest 10-year-olds in the nation,” said Mike Godard, Lance’s father. “It’s exciting for him and it’s exciting to see all the hard work pay off.”

Lance set Missouri Valley records in the 100-yard individual medley (1 minute, 7.27 seconds), the 100 backstroke (1:05.80), the 200 freestyle relay (1:54.45) and the 200 individual medley (2:19.55), the fastest time by a 10-year-old in the United States in that event this year.

His winning time in the 200 IM was 18 seconds faster than the second-place finisher.

“I won by at least five seconds every race,” Lance said. “I didn’t really like that because I didn’t have any competition to race and get better.”

That, Lance’s dad and coaches say, is what sets him apart from your typical 10-year-old. He not only wants to go fast and win races, he wants to be pushed to get even faster.

“You have kids who have that ‘it’ factor. They have that spark, they have that drive,” said Mariah Hutchinson, the Blazers’ head age group coach. “They want to race, they want to compete 100 percent of the time. That’s what Lance has and it’s hard to find.”

Lance has a lot of internal drive, his father said, which helps him get through the daily grind of practice. Godard admits to worrying about burnout, which often happens when youngsters tire of their sport or find something else to move on to. But it’s all still fun for Lance, and he still thrives on the competition.

“We always say he just likes to race and if he has an opportunity to race, there’s not a whole lot of external motivation that has to take place,” Godard said. “He’s pretty committed and I think he’s starting to appreciate where he’s at right now and where he’d like to go with his swimming.”

Next week it’s taking him to Clearwater, where he will face the nation’s best swimmers in his age group. Lance will compete in 10 events: the 50 backstroke, 500 freestyle, 100 IM, 50 butterfly, 200 freestyle, 100 backstroke, 100 freestyle, 200 IM, 100 butterfly and the 50 freestyle.

Even with all his recent success, Lance does admit to being a little nervous.

“It’s kind of putting a little pressure on me,” Lance said. “I need to swim really good because this is out of the whole nation, and if I don’t go all out I’ll end up getting 16th place, when in all of them I want to either get on the podium or win.”

While Lance may be nervous, his ultimate goal for the meet shows he isn’t lacking any confidence.

“I’m planning on crushing all those records because I’ve been training so hard,” he said.

Hutchinson has little doubt that he could. Nor does she doubt that one day he could be an Olympian. The two have talked about it, and they already think it could be a realistic goal in the future.

“I think the sky’s the limit for him,” Hutchinson said. “You can say that about any athlete, but it’s just different when you talk about Lance because you truly mean it.”

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