Northwest Herald Athlete of the Week: Woodstock North’s Hannah Blaksley

Thunder senior broke school record in 100 freestyle, qualified for state for 1st time

Woodstock North's Hannah Blaksley (center) completes the 50-yard freestyle during the IHSA State Swimming Championship preliminaries at FMC Natatorium in Westmont on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021.

Woodstock North’s Hannah Blaksley entered the postseason on a high, winning co-Fox Valley Conference Most Valuable Swimmer at the FVC Meet.

The next week at sectionals was even better.

The Thunder senior finished third in the 50-yard freestyle (24.02 seconds) to qualify for the state meet for the first time. Not only did she make the state cut, but Blaksley also broke the school record in the 100 free at sectionals with a blazing time of 53.13.

Blaksley, along with teammate Haley Halsall, both swam at last weekend’s IHSA Girls Swimming and Diving State Meet at FMC Natatorium in Westmont. Blaksley tied for 26th in the 50 free and was voted Northwest Herald Athlete of the Week by readers.

Blaksley talked to sports writer Alex Kantecki about her favorite memories on the high school swimming team, what it meant to qualify for state, being on the the Wonder Lake Ski Show Team during the summer and more.

Who is your favorite professional athlete?

Blaksley: [American professional swimmer] Caleb Dressel. He’s a beast and was so fun to watch during the Olympics this summer.

Where would you most like to go on a vacation?

Blaksley: Hawaii. It looks beautiful there.

What are three of your favorite TV shows or movies?

Blaksley: “Chicago Fire,” “Station 19,” and “Criminal Minds.”

How did you get into swimming?

Blaksley: I grew up on Wonder Lake and always loved being in the water. My mom thought swimming would be the perfect sport for me, and I quickly fell in love with it at a young age.

How did you get involved with the Wonder Lake Ski Show Team?

Blaksley: My mom grew up on the team, and I joined when I was about 6 years old. I have spent every summer for the past 18 years on the water. I absolutely love being part of the team. Everyone is so supportive, and we lift each other up both literally and spiritually. I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend my summer.

Do you have any rituals or superstitions before you swim in a big meet?

Blaksley: I just try to calm my nerves and take deep breaths.

Who had the biggest effect on you as an athlete?

Blaksley: Coach Renee [Walker]. She was bummed when I chose to play volleyball freshman and sophomore year but was so welcoming when I decided to swim again. She’s been so supportive of my goals and would do anything to see me succeed. About midseason I was getting frustrated with my times, and coach Renee was always there to motivate me to keep pushing toward my goals. She has been such a positive influence in my life, and I am so grateful to have a coach that believes in me.

Which teammate inspires you?

Blaksley: There are a couple of teammates that inspire me. One being Haley Halsall. I admire her drive and dedication to the sport. She puts 100% into every practice, even on her off days. She has motivated me to push harder during practice. Another teammate that inspires me is Addy Walker. She was my personal “hype man” at practice and meets. She is always there to hype me up before a race, and she is my biggest cheerleader.

What did it mean to you to qualify for state?

Blaksley: It meant a lot to me to qualify for state. If you told me midseason that I was going to qualify for state, I would have laughed. As soon as I saw my state qualifying time, I knew that all my hard work had finally paid off and I was finally able to achieve my goal.

What will you remember most about your high school swimming career at Woodstock North?

Blaksley: I’ll remember what I accomplished in the two short years on the team, but most importantly, I will remember all of the friendships and fun memories. I loved being part of such a positive environment. I think sectionals this year will be the most memorable because that is where I qualified for state and broke my school’s 100 free record. The team also did very well and walked away with just about 100% best times.