Hailee Baldwin was the lone ranger representing Pitman High at the Division I Sac-Joaquin Section finals on Saturday. The Pitman High senior performed exceptionally well as she finished seventh in the individual medley with a personal best of 2:08.09 and finished third in the 100 breast stroke with a personal best of 1:03.68.
“I am so very proud of her,” Head coach Michaela Solaria said. “Hailee came to us a few years back from TC and was curious about transferring after her sophomore year and she came over and we knew from the start that she was special.”
After her sophomore season, Baldwin, still at T.C., decided to take her competitive drive to a bigger program at Pitman where she chose to compete at the highest level—Division I.
Along with a successful swimming campaign, Baldwin has also excelled in the classroom, maintaining a GPA above a 4.0 in her high school years. She has also been named an Academic All-American in USA swimming the last two years.
“It takes a lot of sacrifice, my friends ask to go out but I say I have practice and homework,” Baldwin said. “With everything I do, I do it to the best of my ability. With swimming and school I give the best I can. Whatever happens, happens, but I know I did the best I could at the end of the day.”
However, Baldwin knows that all this would not have been possible without some great coaching from Irvin Vador. Vador has a history dating back to his 1956 Olympics where he competed in water polo and represented Hungary.
Baldwin was a student of Vador’s from age of 13 up until his death last year. Vador passed away the day before the CCC Championships in Baldwin’s junior year, but that did not stop her competitive drive to succeed. Eric Vador, Irvin’s son, has now taken over the duties as Baldwin’s club coach and has helped her succeed and get to where she is now.
“I started swimming in Ripon when he was a head coach at Ripon aquatics; from 13 on he’s been my coach. He had a personal relationship with all swimmers, everyone had a nickname,” Baldwin said of Vador. “Mine was, ‘Poofy.’ He was a great coach. He helped me improve as a swimmer and made me see that I could move on and get to where I am. But he was kind of like a grandpa/coach, always there cheering us on. He had a sharp mind and eye, how he explained swimming was so unique, he taught me to see a whole new life in swimming.”
“His son has taken over the program,” Baldwin said. “It’s been neat swimming for Erik this past year, the improvements I made, I could not have asked for any better coach.”
Baldwin will be attending Fresno State on a collegiate scholarship and is the only incoming freshman on the squad to be competing in the breast stroke.
“It’s really exciting to be able to compete Division I and go to school do what I love to do is all I could ask for. I just love swimming, it’s my passion. When I started at 12 I didn’t know what I was getting into but I loved it, it’s exciting,” Baldwin said. “Pushing myself and making myself better because it’s what I love to do is fun competing at a higher level. Going into college looking into swimming to continue and see how far I can go because it’s what I love.”
On Sunday, Baldwin was also given the opportunity to compete in the junior nationals this summer which will be hosted in Irvine.
“In the swimming world that is a pretty big accomplishment,” Baldwin said.
“I think her whole career was a highlight, she does what she loves and does it every day,” Solaria said. “Her demeanor and everything has been outstanding. I cannot take any credit from her cause she represents us in the best way possible, I could not ask for anything more from her.”