Applegate has been making waves in the pool ever since.
When she touched the wall for the final time as a member of the Patriots swim team at the North Coast Section swimming championships, she did so as one of the best swimmers in her school’s history.
For the second straight season, Applegate was named the Bay Valley Athletic League’s MVP in swimming. During her high school career, she earned BVAL champion status in an individual event seven times, made the finals or consolation finals at the North Coast Section swimming championships eight times and recorded a top-100 time out of 3,000 swimmers in the 100 butterfly three times.
“Madison has been great to work with the past four years,” said Heritage head coach Craig Carson. “She has been a person we could count on to do what was in the best interest of the team.”
Her success in swimming isn’t surprising, given her dedication to the sport. In high school, Applegate began 20-hour-per-week practices with the Concord Terrapins, a team she has been a part of since she was 9.
Monday through Saturday, Applegate swims for 2½ hours per day in the afternoon. Her training schedule also includes practices at 5 a.m. twice weekly, plus weight training.
“Swimmers like Madison are not your average teenagers,” said Terrapins assistant coach Rick Waterhouse. “Madison is a special young woman who has made a high level of commitment.”
Applegate’s devotion to swimming has interfered with many high school social events, but paid off when she achieved her lifelong goal of attaining a swimming scholarship. After getting offers from Arizona State and UC Santa Barbara, she decided to attend UCLA in the fall.
“Going to college has always been a goal,” Applegate said. “I learned from swimming how to work hard toward my goals. Now that I’ve reached most of my goals, and I still have a lot of goals ahead of me, I just get a good feeling.”
Her goal of swimming collegiately will pose some challenges when she heads to college without some of her key supporters. Her mom and dad, both former swimmers, have been positive forces when she needs encouragement, such as this season, when she was forced to swim the 100-fly and 100-freestyle events back-to-back.
“They’re very supportive,” Applegate said. “They’ve helped me through everything. When it gets rough, they always encourage me.”
Applegate shouldn’t have a problem finding moral support. Former Terrapins Allison Gargalikis and Taylor Carlson are on UCLA’s roster, and current Terrapins teammate Arlyn Upshaw will join her.
Besides, one of Applegate’s strengths outside of the pool has been her ability to be a leader and consummate teammate, according to Terrapins team director Ray Mitchell. “What I most respect about Madison is her behavior and kind attitude with her teammates and coaches,” Mitchell said.
Applegate’s role as a good teammate is always on display. What she’ll remember most about her high school swimming career is not any individual achievement, but the hard work put in by her teammates. “I’ll always remember my 200-yard freestyle relay team,” Applegate said. “It was me, Haley Rose Love, Erica Knudsen and Emilee Troy. We progressed the whole season and got first at the Mission Viejo Invitational.”
Those are the moments Applegate will miss, but before long she’ll be back in the pool making memories that make her feel back at home. “The feeling that you get once you get a best time, or you reach your goal is indescribable,” Applegate said. “Working toward that, and reaching it, is a great feeling.”