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Lucia Martin Garcia, from Granda, Spain, finished sixth in the 100-yard butterfly

PMG PHOTO: DEREK WILEY - Lucia Martin Garcia, an exchange student from Spain, hangs on to the side of the pool at the Molalla Aquatic Center.

Sitting in the living room of her host families home in Molalla, Lucia Martin Garcia looked at her phone and screamed.

The 15-year-old exchange student from Spain had qualified for the OSAA Class 4A-1A Swimming State Championships.

"I wasn't expecting it, but I got so excited," said Martin Garcia, who had finished fourth in the 100-yard butterfly at the Special District 2 meet, but her time of 1 minute, 3.49 seconds was sixth fastest in all of 4A-1A.

Garcia finished sixth in prelims on Friday, Feb. 21 to advance to Saturday's finals at the Tualatin Hills Aquatic Center in Beaverton.

"It was so cool," said Martin Garcia, who then placed sixth in finals in 1:03.57. "You think you're in that super high level when you are there. It felt like the Olympics. I know it's not, but it looks like it. It was kind of stressing because you see all the girls and all the times and they are so fast. I just tried to focus on my swim and not the other swims."

Martin Garcia is from Granada, a city of around 230,000 people in the southern part of Spain.

After visiting family in Seattle, Martin Garcia decided she wanted to participate in a year-long exchange program in the United States. She could have gone anywhere.

"I didn't pick anything," Martin Garcia said. "It was just random, wherever someone chose me. I didn't care. When you think of the United States you just think of New York and California."

Martin Garcia said Molalla reminds her of the farm Clark Kent grew up in before becoming Superman.

"A lot of people here do farming," Martin Garcia said. "Farming is not our thing."

Martin Garcia's host family has lama's on their property.

"I saw lama's here for the very first time," Martin Garcia said. "It's not something you have in your backyard. That's so cool. We just have dogs and cats."

Martin Garcia swam on a club team in Spain at nearby Alhendin.

"I just wanted to join the swim team (at Molalla) because I used to swim in Spain," Martin Garcia said. "I wasn't expecting to get to that level. It was awesome. I used to not like butterfly. I used to hate it. My arms were really bad. And now it's like my favorite stroke."

In December, Martin Garcia finished the butterfly in 1:09.22 at one of Molalla's early meets.

"The focus here is a lot of technique and I was not used to it," Martin Garcia said. "I noticed that I did a lot of things wrong, and I'm glad that I came here and learned new things because a lot of things I was doing wrong I didn't even notice that I was doing wrong, so my times improved.

When you're good at something, most of the time is when you like it more. I started to focus on it and I like it."

Martin Garcia said she was also able to practice more.

"Here, the school is easier so I have more time to spend in the pool," she said. "I have a lot of time to spend in the pool if I want to. It's more chill and enjoy your life, I guess. Here, people have a lot more free time that we don't have in Spain."

While Martin Garcia can participate in senior activities like prom and graduation, she is mostly taking sophomore classes. English has been the most difficult course.

"English is easier in Spain than it is here," Martin Garcia said. "We don't have to do essays in Spain."

Martin Garcia is also studying Spanish, Biology, Yearbook and American Studies.

"I'm learning a lot of American History that I haven't learned about and I didn't know," she said.

This spring, Martin Garcia wants to try a new sport — softball.

"I have never played before, no other reason, not because I'm good at it," she said. "We don't have it in Spain so I want to try it. I hope it goes good. I don't know how to play."

She also wants to continue to swim at the Molalla Aquatic Center.

"I don't want to lose my shape that I'm at right now," Martin Garcia said.

Derek Wiley
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