On Monday night Cleveland native Laura (Sawyer) Pitman was inducted into the Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame for swimming.
“It’s quite an honor and feels good to be paid back for all the effort and work that went in,” Pitman stated.
The 47 year-old was recognized for her superior swimming skills, having shredded and set numerous records while competing in the Chattanooga Area Swim League (CASL) for the Cleveland Aqua Tigers.
The former Cleveland resident began swimming at the age of 5 at the Cleveland YMCA.
Her impressive swim record includes setting records in every 11-12 age group event in the preliminaries, only to turn around and break the new record in the finals.
“I was 12 at the time and it actually still holds today. I was the only person to break a record in every event in the prelims and then break the record again during the finals.”
Pitman set 42 team records for the Cleveland Aqua Tigers in the 11-12, 13-14, and senior age groups, and at the age of 12 had qualified for the YMCA nationals.
At the CASL City Championship Pitman was the high point winner at ages 8, 10, 11 and 12.
The incredibly talented Pitman was recruited to swim her high school years at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania where she went on to set many records and become a 10-time All-American high school swimmer.
In 1977 Pitman qualified for the junior nationals and was also named to the AAU all-star team.
Despite having spent time outside of Cleveland, Pitman swam locally from 1970 to 1980.
Pitman continued her swimming career at the University of Tennessee, where she was a two-time All American and a top 16 NCAA finisher in the backstroke and medley relay events.
Pitman was nationally ranked in four events in 1979, and in 1980 was an Olympic trial qualifier
The 100m backstroke was Pitman’s self-proclaimed favorite event, while she joked that anything that involved the butterfly, like the 200m fly, was her least favorite.
Pitman became the aquatic director and coach at Baylor School in Chattanooga seven years ago. At Baylor she utilizes her successful swimming past to help properly develop young swimmers.
“I think the biggest thing today, especially with younger kids getting into it, is to start slowly and move through the group slowly and really focus on the technique. A lot of times we see kids who come in and they’re gung-ho, and their parents are really gung-ho, and they want to push, push, push,” Pitman acknowledged.
“Swimming is a really difficult sport, so often they’re burned out by the age of 13 or 14. Our goal here is to move them slowly, make them have fun, and really work on the techniques. We don’t really work on yardage until later.”