Tara Enneking still remembers hearing her name being called over the speaker system as she stood among her Hill City swim teammates years ago.
“That was a big deal to me,” she recalled during a recent interview.
Amid the frenzy of the Lynchburg Aquatic League meet, the few seconds stood out. The announcement, after all, commemorated a moment and accomplishment she won’t easily forget. Enneking, as a young teen, had broken her first Hill City Dolphins record.
For the first time, Enneking’s name displaced another on the list of elite performances that spans decades. And it wouldn’t be the last.
A recent Jefferson Forest grad, Enneking “exploded” onto the scene during her high school years, according to her Hill City coach, Hank Reed.
By the end of her senior season at the Forest school, she captured two state titles and several other top finishes at states, along with countless region and district victories.
During the winter high school season, no one in the Lynchburg area was more dominant. In the summer, as she swims with the Dolphins in LAL meets, she’s out to prove the same, and she’s well on her way.
With a few meets left to swim for Hill City before she heads to Old Dominion to continue her career at the college level, Enneking is one record (the 100 fly) away from owning all 18 of Hill City’s senior girls pool and team records.
“It’s cool to me to do summer swim,” she said, “because I get to be creative with my goal-setting.”
For every record she’s set, Enneking has taken home a memento. The moms of Hill City swimmers, Enneking explained, always put together a keepsake frame with the event and time of each record, along with an actual broken vinyl record, painted gold.
The frames are piled high in a room in her house that acts as a dedicated storage area for all the prizes Enneking has garnered. A set of hooks in the area, on which ribbons from LAL meets and others are hung, is so weighed down that it’s on the verge of breaking, she said.
But despite all she’s accomplished during her illustrious career, Enneking still is not satisfied. Seventeen records, spanning four different strokes and an individual medley event, aren’t enough.
Enneking aims to have her name occupy every spot on the record list for events that are actively swum in the LAL.
“The record board thing is my one big goal,” she said.
According to Reed, who’s coached Enneking for years as the head coach of the Dolphins, Enneking had always been one of the best swimmers in the LAL.
As a child, Enneking played multiple sports and started swimming “just for fun,” she said, just like most kids do when they start participating in the LAL. Quickly, her talent in the pool became obvious.
“Swimming is a really hard sport, and Tara was a good swimmer when she was 8 and under and 9 and 10; she was always among the best in the league,” Reed said.
Reed has seen hundreds of swimmers pass through the Hill City program, and plenty more in his capacity as an assistant with Brookville High School. He’s seen plenty of talent. But Enneking stands out, he explained, because of her work ethic.
“For someone to do it as well as she has, and then continue to improve as she’s gotten older, that’s the unique side of it,” Reed said. “Usually when they get to be 13, 14, there’s that plateau and then it gets harder. When it started getting harder, that’s when she started working harder.
“…I see so many kids who are outstanding as younger swimmers, and then when it does get hard, that’s when they give up. You don’t see that many kids that are gonna keep working, keep pushing, keep improving.”
And the success has followed.
Enneking started taking over Hill City’s record books during her time in the intermediate division as a 13- and 14-year-old, and still owns three of the intermediate girls pool and team records.
Her ascent to the elite ranks in the senior girls division began two years ago, when she set two records. Last season, she tacked on 11 more records, and this year, she’s taken down four more records.
Her first in 2019 came in mid-June, when she posted the fastest 50-meter breaststroke time at the Hill City pool with a 34.99.
About a week ago, her name took over the slots for the 50 free pool record and 50 backstroke pool and team records.
Some of the milestones were easier to come by. But the backstroke, for example, is a stroke Enneking doesn’t swim as often, she said.
The ability she showcases across a number of disciplines, Reed explained, is another reason he considers her one of the best swimmers to come through the Hill City program in years.
“She has really become a complete swimmer at a time when most kids start specializing,” Reed said. “She can race with anybody in the city in any stroke.”
Enneking, he added, is setting “the bar a little higher.”
The ODU-bound swimmer also owns multiple records at other pools, including the two she recently captured at Oakwood by toppling marks that had stood for 27 years.
One of those, the 100 free, came despite a miscue at the start, when she slipped off the block and cut her foot open.
After the race, an Oakwood swimmer told Enneking she’d broken the pool record, though the gravity of the accomplishment hadn’t sunk in, because she was more focused on not passing out from the heat or the injury.
“I was like, ‘Oh, cool,’” Enneking said of her response to hearing about the record. “And then I ran and got a Band-Aid. … [I thought], ‘Now onto my foot, because my foot is bleeding.’ … I was not feeling good that race. I was not on my A-game.”
But as was the case at Oakwood, Enneking won’t let anything stop her from continually raising the bar in the LAL.
“It’s just about leaving my mark,” Enneking said of her goal of owning all of the Hill City senior records. “I know in the LAL, people come in and leave, and when we graduate, that’s it. It’s easy to just forget. But I feel like if my name’s up on the record boards, kids will remember me years from now.”
Emily Brown covers the Hillcats, ODAC and high school sports for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5529.