Jason Mahowald didn’t need to see Payton Nackoney swim in person to know that she’s the perfect fit for the University of South Dakota Coyotes.
Mahowald, the head swimming and diving coach of the Coyotes, has seen the KISU swimmer in video.
“The nice thing about swimming is the clock doesn’t lie,” he said. “You either have been fast or you haven’t been fast. Payton has posted some times that will help us out at both our dual and championships meets.”
Seeking a swimmer for the butterfly and sprint freestyle events, Nackoney fits the bill coming out of high school. Mahowald said the Pen High student has a great frame, while being tall (six-foot-one) and athletic.
“She’s going to do really, really well when we get her into our weight program,” said Mahowald. “She can put on some strength. She seemed to fit in really well with the girls we already have here. It’s not always finding the fastest kids, but the right fit for your program. That is where she will excel. A good fit for both sides.”
Mahowald likes Nakoney’s competitive drive and feels that she fits in with the current group of Coyotes.
“I think she will do really good things here for us. We’re ecstatic to have her,” said Mohowald, who also had connections to Nakoney through his two B.C. swimmers. “I think she will do good things down here.”
Mahowald said the biggest adjustment for Canadians on his team are going from metres to yards. The National Collegiate Athletic Association events are in yards and Nackoney will learn what are good and bad times in that measuring system. There will also be the adjustment of being away from home, family and enjoying home cooked meals. However, the Coyotes have 60 athletes on their team who will embrace her.
“You have other kids going through it with you at the same time that can help,” he said.
Nackoney’s coach Tina Hoeben said she has worked hard to earn this opportunity.
“she’s a great racer. Works really hard in racing situations,” said Hoeben. “It’s been a great experience working with her. I know its’ been a goal of hers to go into school in the U.S. for a long time.”
Nackoney, 17, has had that goal since she was in Grade 8. What attracted her to the Coyotes program and USD is that the school isn’t too big and the coaches are great and the atmosphere is amazing. When she signed her letter of intent on Remembrance Day, the KISU swimmer was just excited.
“I couldn’t believe that it was happening,” said Nackoney.
What excites her is swimming with a new team and learning from different coaches. She also excited to leave home and experience different things. This opportunity comes from the KISU club helping shape her into the swimmer she is.
“It’s helped me a lot. I have been swimming in KISU since I was about five,” she said. “Tina has helped me get there.”